What Napa was, what it is, where it's going: Conaway weighs them in the balance, and shudders.



Visions and desires clash memorably in the bottle green valley of the Napa River.

The Napa Valley has a long agricultural history, from prunes to cattle, and, of course, winemaking, but the rise of the boutique operations has brought contention, with all their ostentatious cultural baggage and, in a number of cases, deleterious environmental impacts. Conaway (Napa, 1992, etc.) paints a grim picture of the changes afoot in the valley: the steroid houses, monuments to money and their absentee owners; the hunger for a vineyard of one's own—not that the owners would get their hands dirty, these would be vanity vineyards—for display purposes; the making of cult wines, the swells needing an imprimatur that associated them with the oldest expression of husbandry and cultural accomplishment, thinking its spiritual worth would rub off on them. Problem was that in the “lost decade of the nineties,” there wasn't any land down in the valley for sale, so the arrivistes had to buy the hillsides, where their plantings—homes and vines—resulted in erosion, the runoff fouling water supplies. Such changes signaled that a way of life was ending, the small town's sense of proportion and responsibility, and inevitably horns were locked over development. The majority of Conaway's work details the struggle between and among various local organizations to pass land-use laws, or simply to have existing laws enforced, and winemakers bent on maximizing profits, where another row of vines another step closer to the stream means many thousands of dollars. Conaway's sketches of the personalities involved—a bouillabaisse of wealthy honchos, countercultural trust-fund folk, local politicos, environmentalists, old winemakers and new—can be wicked, but he tries to present a relatively fair picture of their concerns and circumstances as they jockey for position in the evolving landscape of the valley.

What Napa was, what it is, where it's going: Conaway weighs them in the balance, and shudders.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-06739-6

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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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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