Not entirely convincing but marked by thorough research and a lively narrative.



The careers of eight musicians reveal dramatic changes in American culture.

Bomberger (Music/Elizabethtown Coll.; Very Good for an American: Essays on Edward Macdowell, 2017, etc.) posits 1917 as a watershed year, marked by the nation’s entry into World War I, unleashing passionate patriotism and the ostracism of German composers and performers and the release of the first jazz record, which popularized the genre throughout the country. The author claims that the musicians he follows “actively changed the musical hierarchy of the time,” but, interesting as they are, that claim seems overblown. Half were foreign-born: Fritz Kreisler, Viennese, was a beloved violinist; Swiss native Karl Muck was the conductor of the distinguished Boston Symphony Orchestra; Walter Damrosch, who had emigrated with his family from Germany when he was 9, led the New York Symphony Orchestra; and Ernestine Schumann-Heink was a renowned Austrian-born contralto. The rest were American: Pianist Olga Samaroff, a Texan who changed her name to appear more sophisticated, was the wife of conductor Leopold Stokowski; Freddie Keppard was a famed jazz cornetist; Nick LaRocca led the Original Dixieland Jazz Band; and James Reese Europe, who aspired to create a National Negro Symphony Orchestra, was a popular band leader whose musicians played for wealthy socialites. Following their performances month by month, Bomberger underscores a growing demand for ostentatious displays of patriotism. By the time the first soldiers entered battle in September, “flag-draped opera singers” and an obligatory rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” were ubiquitous. Damrosch began concerts with a statement asserting “earnest avowals of patriotism.” Muck, refusing to perform the anthem for aesthetic reasons, was barred from Providence, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Schumann-Heink, whose sons were serving in the military, was suspected of being a German sympathizer. Europe, an officer in charge of a regimental band, faced segregation and racism. Bomberger contrasts the tribulations of these performers with the increasing popularity of jazz, which promoted the “anti-authoritarian message” that music “can and should challenge the musical establishment.”

Not entirely convincing but marked by thorough research and a lively narrative.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-087231-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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