A powerful case for viewing the unfinished Civil War as a Confederate victory after all.

HOW THE SOUTH WON THE CIVIL WAR

OLIGARCHY, DEMOCRACY, AND THE CONTINUING FIGHT FOR THE SOUL OF AMERICA

A thought-provoking study of the centuries-spanning battle between oligarchy and equality in America.

In 1860, writes Richardson (History/Boston Coll.; To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party, 2014, etc.), the Republican Party took pains in its platform to remind audiences of the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that “all men are created equal.” All men were not equal, of course, to say nothing of women, who would not gain the right to vote for another three generations. Still, the Republicans opposed a slave system that they regarded as despotic while Southern true believers held that a small elite formed a proper polity all their own, slave owners who “would resolve the American paradox by shearing off the portion of it that endorsed equality.” It was this radical rejection of a founding premise, however imperfectly applied, that distinguished Republicans and Southern Democrats. By Richardson’s account, it is this radical rejection that, the party roles having reversed polarity a century later, distinguishes Republicans from Democrats, the former of whom now possess “the language they need to undermine our democracy, and to replace it with an oligarchy.” Furthermore, they believed that “their new system made their nation different from the Old World, which was split between a corrupt aristocracy and the lazy poor.” In their view, a corrupt aristocracy was fine as long as it did not have to share spoils or power; of course, the common trope among Republicans these days is that if you’re poor, it’s because you choose to be. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” did much to propel neo-Confederate values into the modern Republican Party. Later, Newt Gingrich enshrined them, fortifying class inequality by placing “tax cuts at the center of Republican policy” and reducing political interference by changing lawmaking so that lobbyists—not representatives—wrote regulations and laws that “were designed to put the American government at the service of democracy.”

A powerful case for viewing the unfinished Civil War as a Confederate victory after all.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-090090-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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