Sure to delight all those Singer fans—especially those who feared that a fifth posthumous collection would never hit the...


Enchanting sketches of a lost world.

This collection picks up on Singer’s earlier volume (In My Father’s Court, not reviewed), offering sketches of the Warsaw rabbinical court over which Singer’s father presided. The vignettes were originally published in Yiddish in the Daily Forward, and this marks their first English publication. Packed with delightful characters (from Chaim the locksmith—who was really a plumber—to the butcher’s wife), this is more than just a collection of eccentric snapshots. The essays also contain the small gems of insight that have so distinguished Singer’s novels. In “A Hasidic Rebbe on the Street,” the author explores the drive to assimilate, while “The Tinsmith and the Housemaid” argues that “Our inner attitude and our outer circumstances are closely bound together.” Marriage preoccupies Singer: he remembers a traveling salesman he knew, and tries to figure out why the man was so blasé about being away from his family. He recalls Friedele, married to the “irascible” Yechiel, and wonders if she is destined—as an old Jewish folktale suggests—to spend the afterlife as his footstool. In “An Unusual Wedding,” a Jewish artisan comes before Singer’s father to marry a prostitute. Readers also see a slice of the author’s family life: in “The Gift,” a woman who appeared before Singer’s father to have a dispute settled tries to give little Isaac a coin, but his father forbids her (saying he will just buy candy and ruin his teeth). Isaac is devastated, and thus comes to learn a little about the pain and humiliation that all of humanity endure on a daily basis.

Sure to delight all those Singer fans—especially those who feared that a fifth posthumous collection would never hit the shelves.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-21343-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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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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