Snarky history and piquant criticism as delivered by the smartass in the back of the classroom.

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THE SMARTEST BOOK IN THE WORLD

A LEXICON OF LITERACY, A RANCOROUS REPORTAGE, A CONCISE CURRICULUM OF COOL

A charmingly random omnibus from a wisecracking know-it-all.

Proops, a veteran of the popular improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and host of The Smartest Man in the World podcast, presents a compendium of small essays on his favorite topics, ranging from Satchel Paige to Ovid, from Blood on the Tracks to All About Eve. Listeners to the “Proopcast” will enjoy the author’s pithy prose, though fans of less-intellectual humor may become bored. Some of the verve and snark Proops displays through his podcast gets lost in the transition to prose, but this is often the case when comedians translate their performances to a book. Nevertheless, many of the author’s lines hit home: “History is a series of lies written by icky white guys who beat their maids”; “Baseball at its best is church with spitting.” The author’s passion for his subjects comes through loud and clear, and Proops has a knack for the snappy one-line description. For example, Marc Bolan of T-Rex “delivers the short sexy warlock stuff right to the edge of the enchanted guitar forest.” Major league pitcher Ryne Duren “drank like an alcoholic fish.” Alain Delon in Le Samourai is “like a jungle cat, if a cat smoked weed and wore a trench coat.” Johnny Cash’s music is “the real world exposed on a train track shuffle.” Proops sprinkles the book with a variety of fascinating tidbits; it was a surprise to learn that Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics to “Sympathy for the Devil” after reading Marianne Faithful’s copy of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. But caveat lector: if you don’t have an affinity for baseball, poetry and film noir, this book probably isn’t for you.

Snarky history and piquant criticism as delivered by the smartass in the back of the classroom.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4704-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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