Always controversial, but worthwhile for those who follow current events—and those who wish for peace in Palestine.


A gathering of recent, polemical pieces on the Middle East by the late literary scholar, pinning most of the blame for the troubles on Israel, but assigning some to the PLO.

Said (Reflections on Exile, 2001, etc.), who died in September 2003, had no use for Yasir Arafat, whom he considers to have engineered “the initial Palestinian surrender at Oslo”—that is, the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords. “We need a new kind of leadership,” Said thunders early in on in this collection of his opinion pieces for Arabic-language newspapers, “one that can mobilize and inspire the whole Palestinian nation; we have had enough . . . of lies and misleading rhetoric, enough of corruption and rank incompetence.” He had still less truck with Israel, which he portrays as an occupying power on a moral par with the Third Reich; at least, he suggests, the powerlessness of Palestinians today is the powerlessness of the Jews of Europe at the height of Hitler’s reign. The equation is characteristic of the early, pre-9/11 pieces here, which ring with righteous indignation taken to the point of propaganda: “We need a united leadership to make decisions, not simply to grovel before the pope and the moronic George W. Bush, even as the Israelis are killing [Arafat’s] heroic people with impunity. . . . The struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation is where every Palestinian worth anything now stands.” Said’s post-9/11 journalism tends to be more moderate, as if to distance the Palestinian cause from that of Osama bin Laden, for whom he shows little sympathy. His views on the folly of the unfolding American adventure in Iraq (“a hugely weakened and subpar Third World state ruled by a hated despotic regime: there is no disagreement about that anywhere, least of all in the Arab and Islamic world”) seem particularly prescient in the light of recent events.

Always controversial, but worthwhile for those who follow current events—and those who wish for peace in Palestine.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-42287-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet