A thinking person’s guidebook, well supported by illustrations, maps and rich perspectives.

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VENICE FROM THE GROUND UP

District-by-district guide to the ancient city’s profusion of art, architecture and artifacts integrated with its essential history and dominant cultural themes.

Ardent, art-loving travelers aiming to follow McGregor page by page through Venice will need not only resources but plenty of time. As with his take on Rome (Rome from the Ground Up, 2005), the author spares little effort here in presenting Venice’s amazing collection of wonders in full context of the theology, politics and mercantilism that molded the former Republic over the centuries. Founded in the sixth century as a water-bounded sanctuary for locals fleeing barbarian invasions, Venice evolved as a uniquely independent entity with vested theocratic clout following the a.d. 829 purloining by a party of Venetian merchants of the corpse of Saint Mark from its sepulcher in Egypt. This and a robust navy not only kept medieval robber-barons at bay, but served to prevent its own rulers from waxing despotic. “Finding a common artistic formula that expressed this unusual situation,” McGregor writes, “was a great triumph for Venetian political art.” While in fulsome praise of such landmarks as St. Mark’s Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale, the author points out the illusory results of a common restoration process known as “repristinization”—the attempt to strip away components of a structure that do not relate to its exact period of origin. Collapsing hundreds of years of a building’s history into “a single entirely fictive moment,” McGregor warns, too often manifests “a creature of the process rather than a historical reality.” With the city still perceptibly sinking, its lagoon hopelessly polluted, its population dwindling, its treasured structures slowly crumbling, the author observes that Venice seems constantly under threat of becoming a government-run theme park, yet in the face of such dire predictions, Venetians still manage to “carry on with beauty, energy and purpose.”

A thinking person’s guidebook, well supported by illustrations, maps and rich perspectives.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2006

ISBN: 0-674-02333-1

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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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

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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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