The glimpse we get into the making of US policy in a crisis— in this case the Cuban missile crisis—is unique and, in light of the historical and legal problems of the taping of White House conversations by presidents, may well remain so. Which is a great pity, for despite the apparently poor quality of the tapes and various unresolved questions relating to them, the picture of US officials dealing with the most serious crisis of the Cold War is memorable. Although the editors, both scholars at Harvard, rightly remark on the ``inherently disorderly character'' of such meetings, the quality of understanding and analysis the participants brought to the task was high. There are some exceptions: The lack of esteem felt by Kennedy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff seems justified by their performance (General LeMay openly equated Kennedy's actions with ``the appeasement at Munich''); the congressional group brought in to advise was less than helpful, Senator Fulbright, ironically, calling for an immediate all-out invasion. Kennedy privately chews Secretary Rusk out for failing to do contingency planning on the US missiles in Turkey. But the praise given by the editors to Kennedy seems justified, not only for his clear recognition of the awesome responsibilities of his actions, but for asking questions that his advisors had neglected. The editors write of his ``cold analytical mind,'' and indeed he alone notes that US allies think that on the subject of Cuba ``we're slightly demented''; if anything, he tends to be pessimistic (``He'll grab Berlin, of course,'' he says of Khrushchev). But it is particularly impressive when contrasted with the idiosyncratic, unsystematic, and uninformed policymaking of Khrushchev. A remarkable and truly historic record, well analyzed and put in context by May and Zelikow. (20 b&w photos, not seen) (Book-of- the-Month Club/History Book Club selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 1997

ISBN: 0-674-17926-9

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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?