BERLIN WITNESS

AN AMERICAN DIPLOMAT'S CHRONICLE OF EAST GERMANY'S REVOLUTION

Interesting but unexciting diary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and East Germany, by Greenwald, who at the time was the political counselor to the US embassy in East Berlin. When, in 1987, Greenwald began his assignment, conventional wisdom had it—as put by German politician Egon Bahr—that ``all this talk of reunification is crazy nonsense...It is absolutely impossible for Gorbachev to give up East Germany.'' In this reconstructed diary, Greenwald doesn't pretend to have had any greater insight into future events—though, occasionally, he quotes prescient comments by others: The head of the East German Foreign Ministry's US section, for instance, who told Greenwald that ``in two or three years, we will have the same situation as in Poland and Hungary because we have exactly the same problems.'' Indeed, the events in East Germany were partly precipitated by events elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. But as late as August 25, 1989 (less than three months before the Wall went down), Greenwald reflected that—with East Germany's disciplined Party, world-class security apparatus, and tolerable standard of living—it was difficult to envisage collapse. But when it became apparent that the East German government lacked the will to risk a crackdown, the situation unraveled with astonishing speed. Greenwald believes that it was the determination of the East Germans that proved decisive, though he adds that Kohl, by refusing to aid the East German government, made the downfall inevitable—as did the East German leadership, ``mostly old and sick men who had long since lost their ideals and sense of reality in the pursuit and protection of power.'' Intelligent insight into what was being said and thought at the time, at least in higher political circles, makes this a useful resource for historians; but Greenwald only occasionally brings to life the passion and turbulence of those last few days. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: June 18, 1993

ISBN: 0-271-00932-2

Page Count: 392

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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

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