INDEPENDENT SPIRIT

ESSAYS

Posthumous but prescient historical, autobiographical, and literary essays from an Irish writer only now receiving his due. Uncategorizeable Butler (190191) was a passionate Irish nationalist but also a steadfast Anglo-Irish Protestant, a cosmopolitan who lived in Soviet Russia, pre-Anschluss Austria, and Yugoslavia and wrote with rare insight about these lands yet maintained that everything he wrote was ultimately about Ireland, a vigorous essayist, and a scholar with diverse interests in local history, provincial archaeology, literature, and politics. Butler's penetrating, determinedly nonideological essays on European politics and the complex relationship of Ireland and England earned him a reputation as a writer with an Orwellian political conscience and a Swiftian sense of indignation. But he also had a rare gift for communicating his enthusiasm for Irish history. In reminiscences and essays on his native Kilkenny County, he writes with vigor about the Protestant ``descendancy'' in Ireland following the Easter rebellion and the Irish civil war. Butler never excused his fellow Anglo-Irish for choosing exile in England or insular nostalgia rather than an active involvement in Irish affairs. Butler was deeply involved in Irish affairs, but his most difficult moments were caused by his exposure of the Zagreb Catholic archbishop Stepinac's complicity during WW II with the Croatian war criminal Pavelitch and his regime's bloody attempt to compel Greek Orthodox villagers to convert to the Roman Catholic faith. Butler's efforts to document his charges against a popular church figure, in a fervently Roman Catholic nation, caused a scandal that forced him into private life. Displaying lucidity, incisiveness, and uncompromising ethical sense, these essays demonstrate that Butler, whether he was writing about his own life, recent events, local history, or modern Irish writers, was above all, as Joseph Brodsky described him, a ``dishonesty hunter,'' determined to locate the truth and speak it, without fear or favor.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-17551-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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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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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

CODE TALKER

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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