Dumbed-down history delivered in purple prose.

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HORSE SOLDIERS

THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF A BAND OF US SOLDIERS WHO RODE TO VICTORY IN AFGHANISTAN

An action-packed, breathless account of American special-forces heroics that helped defeat the Taliban in the months after 9/11.

Stanton (In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors, 2001) apparently belongs to the history-is-boring school of writing, so he converts his material into a dime-novel narrative complete with strong-jawed American heroes, sneering villains, colorful natives and a relentless series of melodramatic cliff-hangers—an odd authorial choice, given that the plain facts are irresistible. Enraged at the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden after 9/11, the United States resolved to invade Afghanistan. When military leaders realized it would take months to move soldiers to the distant, landlocked nation, they sent small numbers of elite Special Forces to support opposition fighters, guide precision air attacks and bribe local warlords to join. It worked brilliantly. Stanton recounts the lives of a dozen such soldiers and undercover CIA operatives, revealing their emotions and thoughts, quoting inner monologues and inventing dialogue to dramatize events. He invents similar scenarios for many Afghan figures and for John Walker Lindh, the American who fought for the Taliban. Using diplomatic skills, money, airdropped supplies and high-tech communications equipment, the soldiers inspired Afghan forces, who did almost all the fighting, to unite and crush the Taliban. In the final pages Stanton admits that America squandered this dazzling triumph. Happily proclaiming victory, the administration turned its attention elsewhere as Afghanistan descended into chaos from which the Taliban emerged again to control most of the country.

Dumbed-down history delivered in purple prose.

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-8051-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2009

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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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