A graceful confirmation that reading can be an integrative education that offers a surprise with every turn of the page.



A singer, author and professor expertly escorts us through Winterreise, Franz Schubert’s 24-song cycle.

The subtitle refers to an obsession, and that is no exaggeration. Reporting that he has sung the cycle about 100 times, Bostridge (Music/Oxford Univ.; A Singer’s Notebook, 2011, etc.) frequently confesses his fondness for the piece, an affection that is patent throughout this illuminating and comprehensive work. Although the author pauses at times to discuss music theory, it’s not often, and he keeps in mind a more general reading audience. Devoting a section to each of the 24 songs, Bostridge employs an organization that is both fixed and flexible. He begins with the lyrics (poems by Wilhelm Müller, with German and English, on facing pages) and then both focuses and digresses in ways that explain the music and illustrate the value of a liberal arts education. In his rich, highly readable text are allusions to Rousseau, Shakespeare, Dante, Napoleon, the Nazis, J.M. Coetzee, Paul Auster, Thomas Mann, Gustav Mahler, James Fenimore Cooper and countless others. He shares the remarkable story of Schubert’s decline and death, a period during which he was compulsively reading Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. However, it is the winter journey itself that most interests Bostridge, and he dives into the text, explores how the words and music relate, looks for analogues in the composer’s life, and discusses his own performances and performances by others that helped shape his view of the piece. He treats readers to some things they would not expect in such a book: the history of postal delivery, the scientific explanation of the will-o’-the-wisp, the theme of loneliness in Romantic art, and the differences between crows and ravens.

A graceful confirmation that reading can be an integrative education that offers a surprise with every turn of the page.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0307961631

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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