A worthy introduction to the makers of Howl, Naked Lunch, On the Road, Turtle Island and a small library’s worth of enduring...

THE BEATS

A GRAPHIC HISTORY

An illustrated tour of the world of hepcats, bongo bangers and other denizens of the bohemian 1950s.

The culture of the ’50s really began in the ’40s, when Jack Kerouac started palling around with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and others of their experimental, countercultural ilk. Fittingly, Pekar (Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, 2008, etc.) and Buhle (American Civilization/Brown Univ.; editor: Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography, 2008, etc.) begin this pen-and-ink survey of Beat Generation icons with that trio. Their exploits will be well-known to readers familiar with their contributions to literature. In the hands of the profoundly dyspeptic Pekar, however, the less-than-appealing aspects of the three—Kerouac’s alcoholism and right-wing extremism, Ginsberg’s pederasty, Burroughs’s bad aim with a pistol—are laid bare. But we still read their work and that of many of their contemporaries, and one of the best things about this collection by various hands—including art by noted underground cartoonist Jay Kinney and text by surrealist doyenne Penelope Rosemont—is that it elevates lesser-known figures tied to Kerouac and company. Among those are Kenneth Rexroth (who pointedly asked not to be numbered among the Beats, but has been labeled so evermore all the same), Diane Di Prima, Michael McClure, Kenneth Patchen, Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia and even Tuli Kupferberg, beatified octogenarian and rabble-rousing Fug. Again, this roster will harbor no surprises for those who know the Beats, but those who do not may be surprised at how varied the movement was—and how different its East and West Coast branches were. The only serious drawback is that few of the drawn figures look much like their real-life counterparts. Instead, it seems, they are shifted one contemporary to the left—Ginsberg looks like William Gaines, Kerouac like Gregory Corso, Patti Smith like Joan Baez, and so on.

A worthy introduction to the makers of Howl, Naked Lunch, On the Road, Turtle Island and a small library’s worth of enduring books.

Pub Date: March 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9496-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2008

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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