POLAND

The dullest, if timeliest, history lesson yet from Michener Junior College—following three Polish clans (noble, petty-noble, peasant) from 1204 A.D. to the present, but with little of the uplifting, dynastic sweep of this mechanical Michener-format at his best. The saga begins with a talky 1981 confrontation, in the village of Bukowo on the Vistula, between farm-union leader Janko Buk and Communist agriculture minister Szymon Bukowski. . . who turn out to be related. Then it's back, back, to the 13th century—when Buk's ancestors are downtrodden peasants, Bukowski's are the local feudal lords, and above them are the fully noble Counts Lubonski. In the 1200s these Poles are ravaged by Tatar raids, with the Polish "abhorrence of central power" one cause of the region's vulnerability. A century-and-a-half later, the current count sends a Bukowski/Buk duo to spy on the Teutonic Knights who threaten po. land from the west (ostensibly because the Poles are still "pagans"); in the 1410 Battle of Grunwald, the Poles join the Tatars and others—in serviceable battle scenes—to trounce the Germans. In the 1600s the land is devastated again, by Swedes ("they went totally berserk") and slaughtering Transylvanians; yet by 1683, despite the "insane" governing system of the Polish barons, the country has pulled itself together—thanks in part to charismatic King Jan Sobieski, who leads triumphant Polish forces (including a Buk and a Bukowski, of course) against Vienna-invading Turks. Next, however, come the disastrous 1790s: Poland's reformers fail to dislodge the barons ("Symbolically, Feliks and Jan, master and serf, walked together up the gentle hill" to join freedom-fighter Kosciuszko); Poland's neighbors exploit its internal weakness, annexing and obliterating the nation. Then, jump to 1895 Vienna—with Count Andrzej Lubonski row Austria's minister of Minorities and Wiktor Bukowski (with servant Buk) a minor official: Bukowski's Polish consciousness is raised by a beauteous pianist's Chopin, he marries a cultured American and returns to Bukowo. . . while Buk at last gets his own swatch of land (in return for marrying Bukowski's pregnant mistress). So, when Poland comes back into existence in 1918, Count L. labors at achieving multi-ethnic nationalism, Mrs. Bukowski entertains Paderewski, Bukowski helps fight the Communists—all in vain: the Nazis will invade, with underground/concentration-camp bravery ahead for the clans. (One Bukowski does "slither" off to Paris with his art collection.) And the finale is 1981 again. . . as Bukowski and Buk finally come together in anti-Communist solidarity. Simplistic yet inconsistent, Michener's trio-of-families approach offers a spotty, confusing overview of complex history; while emphasizing lapses in Polish leadership, he idealizes and glosses over elsewhere—with, for example, a near-total whitewash of Polish anti-Semitism. And, despite a few courtships and weddings, the parade of characters here is flat, utterly humorless, un-involving. Look elsewhere, then, either for strong historical fiction or a coherent introduction to Polish history. But look to the bestseller lists nonetheless: the facts are piled high, the title is in the headlines, the byline is inescapable.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1983

ISBN: 0449205878

Page Count: 644

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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