Why one group of young men chose not to go to war, as told in their own words. By interviewing only conscientious objectors who took a legal route to evade the Vietnam War rather than those who simply dodged the draft, Tollefson (English/University of Washington) defuses the sort of hindsight criticism that threatened to derail Bill Clinton's campaign. The author's ``sample'' is broad, though not scientific, and includes a Roman Catholic seminarian; sons of men who served with distinction in WW II; leftists; conservatives; Jews; Lutherans—nearly every kind of American male to be found at the time. Twenty-odd years after the event, these men's words tend to share a detached tranquility—one to some extent depersonalized because no names or even pseudonyms are attached to the oral testimony, preventing readers from following the development of any one particular case. The excerpts are arranged chronologically— some as short as a paragraph, others several pages long—and grouped into five sections: ``Deciding Not to Fight''; ``Trial and Imprisonment''; ``Serving My Country''; ``A Country Not My Own''; and ``Making Peace.'' From these examples, we learn that the peace of mind that came for many COs upon their fateful decision was generally followed by harrowing, often hellish, experiences as local draft boards and law-enforcement agencies routinely insulted, humiliated, and brutalized the men for acting upon dictates of conscience. (It seems that the CO experience has changed little since the WW II days detailed in Charles Shipman's It Had to be Revolution, p. 442.) Those who served in the war in noncombatant roles had different experiences—but usually demeaning ones as well. The process by which many COs, so harshly defined as inadequate and shameful by their fellows, worked their way back to a condition of social acceptance makes for compelling, if uncomfortable, reading. Quiet, simple, disturbing: An invaluable contribution to the cultural history of the 60's.

Pub Date: July 7, 1993

ISBN: 0-316-85112-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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



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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