Duncan's Out West (1987), which retraced the route of Lewis and Clark, took the author to some remote locales—but to nothing like the outposts of civilization that he reports on in this solid, well-informed survey of the 132 counties in the American West that have population densities of fewer than two people per square mile. Duncan calls these counties—which sprawl over 15 states, with the greatest number in Texas, Montana, and Nebraska—the ``contemporary frontier,'' and indeed there's an aura of rugged individualism about their scattered inhabitants that harkens back to the classic frontier. But there's also ``an undercurrent of paranoia,'' Duncan says, bred by a vulnerability to an ex-rural America that uses these regions as waste dumps, nuclear-missile sites, and so on. It's this sort of unsentimental, balanced view of his subjects, backdropped by an in-depth historical framework, that gives Duncan's travelogue its resonance (though he displays neither the wit of an Ian Frazier nor the poetry of a Gary Paulsen) as he describes the many months he spent traveling the territory in a GMC Suburban (``a station wagon on steroids'') that he christened the Conestoga. Typical of the counties is Nebraska's Banner County, with 1.1 people per square mile, whose businesses number a bank, two cafes, some home shops, and two hairdressers. Typical of the people the author met is the Texas UPS driver whose average day covered 338 miles in 12 hours—really just a Sunday drive in the American vastness that Duncan explores from myriad angles, covering ethnic groups (many Native Americans, few blacks); environment (harsh); crime (low); politics (often libertarian); death (often violent); grit and courage (endemic), and on and on. Sharply observed, literate travel writing that drives home just how big—and big-souled—this country really is. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs, one map—not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-83195-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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