THE PRESIDENCY OF JOHN F. KENNEDY

Brisk, solid survey of a brief and controversial presidency, by Giglio (History/Southwest Missouri State Univ.). Elected with virtually no mandate in what Giglio says was a stolen election, Kennedy managed in his ``thousand days'' to put his stamp on the American reality. He soon forged his mandate, Giglio points out, by media mastery and by using supreme political skills that allowed him to give the appearance of firm, virtuous positions while keeping options open as he successfully identified himself with causes (civil rights, anti-imperialism) that in reality he accepted only shallowly, and avoided acting on. Judging gently, supporting his views with precise, well-integrated evidence, Giglio gives a relatively unbiased picture of JFK. We see the future President begin as his father's creature, supported every step of the way by money, influence, and manipulation, and grow into a man learning from traumatic confrontations with Khrushchev (in Vienna) and with American blacks (at a breakfast that left him virtually speechless). Kennedy's Achilles' heel—his unproductive relationship with Congress—is plainly drawn, but his judgment on the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis are not seriously faulted, while his creation of the Peace Corps is seen as genuinely historic. Most interestingly, Giglio documents JFK's lifelong physical frailty, superbly concealed in the mythology of the war hero and athlete. A victim of Addison's disease (not to mention satyriasis) for years, Kennedy came close to death as a young man and was also in constant, uncorrectable back pain, often severe. Regularly injected with steroids and pain-killers, he was also receiving, until his death, amphetamine shots from a notorious doctor-to-the-stars. A balanced and thoughtful account that avoids the hagiography or damnation of so many other JFK bios, revealing the man in all his complexity, from his wily, hypnotic charm to his political decisiveness when it could not be avoided.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-7006-0515-0

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kansas

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1991

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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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