A careful, scholarly consideration of how the ambiguities surrounding the defeat of the South resolved into the bitter eras...

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APPOMATTOX

VICTORY, DEFEAT, AND FREEDOM AT THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR

What exactly was the meaning of the surrender at Appomattox?

Robert E. Lee's surrender of his starving army to Ulysses S. Grant effectively brought the Civil War to an end; remaining military resistance collapsed shortly thereafter. But once the killing ceased and the Confederate troops had returned home under magnanimous surrender terms, what had truly been resolved? Slavery and secession were ended by force of arms; the South accepted that, however grudgingly. Yet many social and political questions remained to be settled by leaders from both sides of the conflict. Predominating among these leaders were the border-state Democrat Andrew Johnson, who had succeeded the murdered Lincoln, and Lee and Grant themselves. Varon (History/Univ. of Virginia; Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789–1859, 2008, etc.) considers how the months following the surrender came to be viewed by each side as a golden opportunity for conciliation squandered by the other, partly as a result of radically different interpretations of the meaning of the North's military victory and the terms under which the South had laid down its arms. Drawing on sources ranging from newspaper editorials and congressional testimony to the poetry of Herman Melville, the author explores the evolving disagreements between Unionists and the former Confederates about moral culpability for the war, the restoration of the occupied states to the union, and especially about the rights to be accorded the freed slaves. Johnson's approach to reconstruction seemed only to substitute serfdom for slavery and otherwise left the South largely unchanged; this enraged the radical Republicans, who saw this result as a betrayal of the Union dead. Grant observed and vacillated but finally supported the radicals. Lee emerges as less the conciliating figure of modern legend and more a sectional leader who felt betrayed by what he saw as federal interference in Southern affairs beyond anything agreed to at Appomattox.

A careful, scholarly consideration of how the ambiguities surrounding the defeat of the South resolved into the bitter eras of Reconstruction and Jim Crow.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-975171-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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