Careful research brought satisfyingly to life, putting flesh on long-gone bones and letting them live again, cheating the...

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THE SECRET CITY

WOODLAWN CEMETERY AND THE BURIED HISTORY OF NEW YORK

An imaginative, engaging, and celebratory episodic history of New York City, conveyed courtesy of Woodlawn Cemetery residents.

At mid-life, the sour taste of mortality was giving rock writer Goodman (The Mansion on the Hill, 1997) insomnia. He took to riding the city streets on his bike late at night, pausing to marvel at a host of memorials to characters he hadn't a clue even existed, though they’d been triumphed by the city mere years before. “A mayor and a war hero?” he asked incredulously when happening on a vest-pocket park named after early 20th-century politician John Purroy Mitchel, who died in WWI. Who was this guy? How could we forget so soon those who had died in cataclysmic events, or the events themselves, or others who had made an impact but were now disappeared into an amnesia that seems almost instantaneous? One thing Goodman knew: Mitchel was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, 400 acres of the north Bronx, a pastoral fantasy of heaven where “a quiet and undeniable grace wraps the small hills and deep shaded glens.” Visiting the cemetery, the author found some people who had died anonymously but gained stature with the years (Herman Melville, for example), others who died with great celebrity and receded into the mists with alarming alacrity. Their stories, Goodman fruitfully muses, constitute an archive of the city laid out in rows of stone. So he seizes upon a half-dozen and recreates, in unhurried language rich with referents, moments of history in imagined vignettes. He fashions tales about the scourges of polio and influenza, about the work of the Picirilli Brothers’ artistry and the rabble-rousing congressman Vito Marcantonio, the shyster Austin Corbin and the great black poet Countee Cullen. With an eye for social justice, Goodman knows who to bite and who to give a resurrecting pat on the back.

Careful research brought satisfyingly to life, putting flesh on long-gone bones and letting them live again, cheating the reaper.

Pub Date: July 13, 2004

ISBN: 0-7679-0647-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2004

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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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