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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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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