A readable account of the intersection of Lincoln and Douglass’s careers, but an even better demonstration of the interplay...

THE RADICAL AND THE REPUBLICAN

FREDERICK DOUGLASS, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, AND THE TRIUMPH OF ANTISLAVERY

A sharp analysis by Oakes (History/City University of New York; Slavery and Freedom: An Interpretation of the Old South, 1998, etc.) of how Lincoln the politician and Douglass the reformer worked, separately and together, to abolish slavery in America.

The pair met only three times, but President Lincoln’s esteem for the most famous ex-slave in the nation prompted him to conspicuously welcome “my friend Douglass” to the White House. After the assassination, Mary Lincoln sent the martyr’s walking stick to Douglass as a memento and an expression of the president’s personal regard. Thirty years later, after a lifetime of working first against slavery and then against legal discrimination, and after many revisions of opinion, Douglass came to see Lincoln as a kind of saint. Oakes’s narrative focuses on the fascinating symbiosis between these two highly public men as each worked in his own way towards a common goal, but it’s also a brilliant meditation on the timeless, crucial roles played by the radical and the politician to resolve any public issue, especially one as contentious as slavery in 19th-century America. Almost from the time of his escape from bondage, the uncommonly eloquent Douglass was on the forefront of the abolitionist movement. As his career progressed, and though he never deviated from his goal, he moved gradually and not always consistently from contempt for the political process to grudging appreciation to active participation. Though he always opposed slavery, such was Lincoln’s caution on the subject that Douglass declined to vote for him in 1860. In Douglass’s opinion, Lincoln never moved swiftly or decisively enough, the classic complaint of any activist about political leaders forced to accommodate multiple interests. Lincoln, however, was a consummate politician, able to take advantage of events and perfectly gauge the public mood. In the White House, he moved to eradicate slavery even as he achieved his principal goal of saving the Union.

A readable account of the intersection of Lincoln and Douglass’s careers, but an even better demonstration of the interplay between the agendas of passionate, single-minded reformers who prepare the public for change, and the talented politicians who master the art of the possible.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-393-06194-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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