A useful summary of recent events—and one that does Allen proud.

THE BEST OF TIMES

AMERICA IN THE CLINTON YEARS

An absorbing survey of America’s second Gilded Age.

Veteran journalist Johnson (The System, 1996, etc.) borrows a page from social historian Frederick Lewis Allen in sketching an account of “what in the future may be considered a distinct era in American history”—namely, the trend- and scandal-ridden 1990s. Four large themes occupy much of this unchallenging, reader-friendly study. On the first, the explosion of technology, Johnson ranges from gee-whiz optimism to should-we-worry pronouncements, echoing Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s comment on his loss to an IBM computer called Big Blue, “I'm a human being. When I see something that is well beyond my understanding, I’m afraid.” On the second theme, the growing cult of celebrity and media power, Johnson offers well-honed observations on the now-shopworn O.J. Simpson murder trial and some of its attendant ironies, including a surge in SUV sales following the infamous Bronco chase; he is less successful at capturing the spirit of media tycoons such as David Geffen and Michael Bloomberg, both of whom he profiles. On the third, American culture and society at the dawn of the millennium, Johnson closely follows the ups and downs of the market, fashions, college-exam scores, and other telling indicators of modern life, while on the fourth, the career of William Jefferson Clinton, he does a solid job of portraying a president who survived his terms in office largely because his enemies persistently “misread the American public,” which, it seems, was more concerned with riding the wave of prosperity than punishing its leader for his considerable sins. Johnson’s approach is History Lite, with no discernible ideology, which makes this a strong candidate for use in survey courses.

A useful summary of recent events—and one that does Allen proud.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-100445-5

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

more