A controversial reception is a safe prediction for this already heralded first novel — that and a wide market along the lines of The Naked and The Dead. The two books offer many analogies: -fearless realism in depicting men in the armed forces, their thoughts, their conversation, their emotions, their brute natures; occasional tenderness in reflecting the softer sides of their natures- appreciation of beauty-yearnings; the reflection of the comradeship of the army, along with its jealousies, internal politics, unity in hating authority. This book differs sharply from the Mailer book in the construction, the interweaving of plots, the brief glimpses of the glamor of the Hawaiian background, make for easier, less jarring reading. There's some powerful writing here -and some that is overdone, lush; it would benefit by some drastic cutting. The raw crudity and obsession with sex will offend many; its excuse the same as that made for The Naked and the Dead — this is how men are, without civilizing externals. The period offers less excuse, however. Here are men worn down by boredom and tensions of army discipline in the hands of bullies, in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. One feels, however, that the author's intent is to convey to the reader the central character, Prew's, love for the army; instead what emerges is his turbulent resistance, his recurrent rebellion. Even in death, when the impact of war makes him face the punishment involved in being AWOL, and he dies at the hands of a trigger-happy MP, his overwhelming impulse to seek the Army again is not wholly convincing. Some of the minor characters are vigorously drawn; there are unforgettable episodes, glimpses of behind the scenes in the barracks, the horrors of medieval methods of punishment, the savage reprisals, and a succession of close-ups of brothels and even one memorable scene in a de luxe establishment for homosexuals. All in all, an unpalatable, distasteful picture of army life....Publisher backing ($10,000 initial advertising); the impact of the book on the first readers; the certain storm of controversy, all make certain a terrific send-off for an impressive first novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1951

ISBN: 0385333641

Page Count: 862

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1951

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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