First-rate analysis of original American political thought that has survived deep ecclesiastical enmity.

THOMAS PAINE AND THE PROMISE OF AMERICA

How the essence and works of the American Revolution firebrand have been lionized, vilified, largely ignored and strangely reclaimed.

Kaye (Social Change, Univ. of Wisonsin, Green Bay) marshals the essential life details of Paine (1737–1809), erstwhile British corset-maker turned privateer and an immigrant to the Colonies on the eve of what he himself would indelibly characterize as “the times that try men’s souls.” But this is not a towering biography; instead, the author focuses on the impact of Paine’s writing, among the most widely circulated printed material both in America and Europe in his day, and on the politics and statesmanship of a revolutionary age. Paine’s ability to instantly make enemies was evident even in 1776, when his “Common Sense” pamphlet was rallying the cause for independence; John Adams, for instance, was so opposed to Paine’s radical democratic ideas as to openly suggest that the circumstances of the latter’s parentage involved a wolf bitch in rut with a wild boar. Unrelenting, however, whenever he perceived a drift toward Federalist concentration of power, Paine even produced material insulting George Washington. But in repudiating Christian scripture with terms like “mythology” in later works, Paine set the all-time negative example for American political figures (including his like-minded friend, Thomas Jefferson) to avoid. With open bias, Kaye laments the fact that Paine spent some two centuries alienated from the mainstream. It was not modern Democrats who rediscovered Paine—the original proponent of limited government, welfare support for the indigent and, yes, even social security—it was Ronald Reagan. Invoking the line from “Common Sense” that “We have it in our power to begin the world again” at the 1980 Republican Convention, Reagan reinvented Paine for the party, an act the author avers has actually subordinated Paine’s ideals.

First-rate analysis of original American political thought that has survived deep ecclesiastical enmity.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8090-8970-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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