In her latest collection of her ``Letters from Europe'' for the New Yorker, Kramer (Whose Art Is It?, 1994, etc.) ponders the fate of post-Wall Germany. In six long essays from November 1988 to August 1995, Kramer offers snapshots of a nation struggling through a difficult transition, evolving from the divided Germany of the Cold War to the uneasily reunified Germany of today. The Germans, she writes in her introduction, ``discovered that it was hard to be ordinary folks . . . when you had a Holocaust in your history.'' But the presence of the Holocaust is only implied in all but the last two pieces, one on skinhead violence in the city of Ludwigshafen and the other on Berlin's debate over how to memorialize the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. In the first four essays, the dilemma hangs like an unidentified cloud over Germans who strive to be ``ordinary.'' However, the most visible presence in all six pieces is the Wall and its ghosts. In her November 1991 piece ``Berlin,'' Kramer treats the German capital as a city in which East and West are still clearly demarcated. In ``Peter Schmidt'' and ``Stasi'' she reveals the problems that the former East Germans have brought to the unification party, particularly an odd, troubling passivity. Kramer is not a scintillating prose stylist, but she is an excellent reporter. Equally important, she has a sure grasp of the architecture of the long feature piece; the six essays in this volume are superbly structured. It would have been nice, however, to know what happened to the principal players here in the years since the articles were written. Thoughtful, insightful writing, a convincing portrait of contemporary Germany, and a forceful cautionary tale: After all, every time the Germans have had a ``German problem,'' it has become as a problem for everyone else, too.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-44872-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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