A quirky approach to a fresh way of looking at the human animal.

BUNCH OF AMATEURS

A SEARCH FOR THE AMERICAN CHARACTER

A guide through the sometimes-consequential, sometimes-zany realm of amateurs.

Veteran journalist Hitt (Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain, 2005, etc.) posits that various brands of amateurism conceived in the interest of advancing knowledge offer meaningful insights into a uniquely American character. The narrative thread holds together nicely through chapters focusing on the legendary amateurism of Benjamin Franklin, birdwatchers seeking the ivory-billed woodpecker, inventors of various gadgets, genealogists, archaeologists, astronomers and linguists. Hitt wisely concedes that other nations harbor amateurs, as well, but he maintains that American amateurs are notable for their comfort with exploration and with rebelling against authority. Elsewhere in the world, where socioeconomic status is often hardwired at birth, the word "amateur" suggests class warfare. In the United States, the word often carries a hint of adventure. Searching for lasting answers, Hitt studies business theory, providing a serious explanation that outsiders are often not hidebound by the curse of knowledge. In other words, when it comes to reconceiving a workplace, an industry, a charitable endeavor or some other institution, perhaps ignorance sometimes can be considered bliss. Knowing almost nothing about something can become the catalyst driving breakthrough discoveries. When talented amateurs receive positive recognition for their accomplishments, such as the "genius grants" provided annually by the MacArthur Foundation, the white heat of innovation might be kindled further. Hitt inserts himself into the narrative as he meets with living amateurs and discovers newly released material about deceased amateurs. The first-person approach is usually effective because it generates passion about the possibilities of the intellect.

A quirky approach to a fresh way of looking at the human animal.

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-39375-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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 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

Did you like this book?

more