McGregor might have spent more time—or time at all—on certain well-known points on the Roman map (the Campo dei Fiori, the...

ROME FROM THE GROUND UP

A pleasing history of Rome from antiquity to the modern era, tied to monuments, buildings and other structures throughout the city.

The heart of Rome is the Tiber River, and there McGregor (Comparative Literature/Univ. of Georgia) begins. “Like all too many urban rivers,” he writes, “it lies far below street level in a deep and narrow chasm, visible from above but almost out of reach.” Not quite; the homeless get to it easily enough. But the point is well taken; the Tiber stands as a rebuke in a city full of splendors but also of graffiti and litter, one that is “being internationalized at an unprecedented pace” and made ever more chaotic with bigger and more numerous motor vehicles. Step away from the river, and McGregor’s tour of the city becomes calmer and more reflective, and even longtime students of Roman history stand to learn something from his pages. Among the lessons offered along the way: The Basilica Julia represents a major urban renewal project on the part of Julius Caesar, who bought up a big chunk of the ancient Forum at “Manhattan prices” (whether of Pieter Minuit or Donald Trump we do not know) for the purpose. The Piazza di Spagna is so named because the Spanish embassy was once located there, and with it the office of the Institute for the Propagation of Faith—for it made sense for the proselytizers to associate with busy conquerors. Benito Mussolini engineered some urban renewal of his own, clearing out hundreds of houses in order to make his grand Via del Impero. And so on, in a wealth of detail and with well-chosen illustrations. Well worth consulting before planning a tour of the Eternal City.

McGregor might have spent more time—or time at all—on certain well-known points on the Roman map (the Campo dei Fiori, the Gardens of Sallust, the Baths of Caracalla), but Georgina Masson’s Companion Guide to Rome (1974) fills in the blanks.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-674-01911-3

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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