Will appeal mostly to readers considering a career in the military or veterans wondering if their memories exaggerate the...




Anecdotal overview of basic training, the great social leveler of military service.

Medal of Honor–winner Jacobs (If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in America's Time of Need, 2008) argues that “[b]asic military training and boot camp are American institutions that have continued to evolve…but the experiences of trainees through the decades seem remarkably similar.” This assertion forms the book’s structural core, as the author ranges widely, interviewing living veterans and researching the recollections of others, tracing the universalities of this harsh and surreal yet essential experience. Of his own training ritual, he writes, “we figured we were unique, and we would invent ways of beating that system…until we realized that we had become part of that system.” Jacobs establishes the systemic, unchanging nature of training by breaking it down into various categories of discussion, including the creative brutalities of drill instructors, dreaded tasks such as guard duty, and longstanding dubious legends such as the use of saltpeter in military rations to reduce sexual desires. While some of the included veterans are well-known figures, like Tom Seaver or Brian Dennehy, most are ordinary soldiers who provide wry assessments of their experiences—e.g., “when I first got to my unit they pretty much told me to forget everything that I’d learned in basic.” Overall, the author provides a clear and sometimes mordantly amusing overview of the training experience, punctuating it with personal accounts from soldiers. However, Jacobs does not provide an interpretation of the changing role of the military in American life, as represented by this enduring yet prosaic ritual.

Will appeal mostly to readers considering a career in the military or veterans wondering if their memories exaggerate the intense eccentricity of the experience.

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-62277-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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