Immensely readable, and of real value as a sharply pointed cautionary tale.

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BRIGHT YOUNG PEOPLE

THE LOST GENERATION OF LONDON’S JAZZ AGE

British biographer and novelist Taylor (Kept, 2008, etc.) offers a vivid group portrait of the 1920s pleasure-seekers who ought to have been—and sometimes were—characters in Evelyn Waugh’s novels.

Inveterate idlers and party animals, these vainglorious glitterati twinkled their way through London society, siphoning off their sometimes indulgent families’ fortunes to bankroll lavish parties, elaborate pranks and sexual dalliances, while excitedly congratulating one another for the jaded stabs at originality. Major literary figures Waugh, Anthony Powell, the pseudonymous “Henry Green” and effervescent Nancy Mitford rubbed shoulders with such varied luminaries as celebrity photographer Cecil Beaton, journalist Tom Driberg, epicene underachievers Brian Howard and Stephen Tennant and unstable sybarites like Elizabeth Ponsonby. Taylor’s study revels in snapshot accounts of their scattered activities, but never really abandons its essentially anecdotal structure—over 300-plus pages, repetition thus becomes unavoidable. But the particulars are often irresistible. One yearns to have been a fly on the wall at the “fancy dress ball…featuring a gang of fashionable debutantes dressed as the Eton rowing eight,” or the notorious Bruno Hat exhibition of faked modernist paintings. Taylor expertly connects this shrill game-playing to memorable depictions of it in Waugh’s Vile Bodies, Powell’s Afternoon Men and Henry Green’s Party Going, while never neglecting the actual achievements of their lesser peers (e.g., Beverley Nichols’s forgotten novel Singing Out of Tune). A note of genuine pathos is struck in his description of how the increasingly straitened economic and political circumstances of the ’30s began rendering this gaudy subculture obsolete.

Immensely readable, and of real value as a sharply pointed cautionary tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-374-11683-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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