A deeply sympathetic dual biography.




The intellectual and emotional bond between two major 19th-century writers is revealed in their own words.

When they first met in 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was the acclaimed author of Nature, his first essay collection, and had launched his career as a public lecturer; Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), just graduated from Harvard and living in Concord, Massachusetts, soon was pulled into Emerson’s orbit. The two men took long walks together, and Thoreau often was found at Emerson’s dinner table. The connection between them was noticeable: Friends commented on Thoreau’s “unconscious imitation” of the cadences of Emerson’s speech. “Mr. Emerson does talk like my Henry,” Thoreau’s mother remarked. For the next 25 years, they enjoyed a rare, fertile friendship. “Their influence was, from the very beginning, mutual,” writes Cramer (editor: Essays by Henry D. Thoreau: A Fully Annotated Edition, 2013, etc.). Editor of many works by Emerson and Thoreau and curator of collections at the Walden Woods Project’s Thoreau Institute, Cramer brings both authority and sensitivity to his biographical overview and to a judicious selection of excerpts from the men’s prolific writings. Emerson thought Thoreau “uncommon in mind and character”; Thoreau’s praise of Emerson was effusive: “More of the divine realized in him than in any,” he wrote in his journal in 1846. Both men prized friendship as a meeting of minds and as emotional sustenance. “Friendship,” Emerson wrote, “should be a great promise, a perennial springtime.” From Thoreau, he received a gift: “in flesh and blood and pertinacious Saxon belief, my own ethics.” Despite shared admiration, their friendship was not without tensions. Thoreau often was unsatisfied, “discouraged so far as my relation to him is concerned.” At times, he felt unrecognized and disappointed. “Talked, or tried to talk, with Emerson,” he complained in 1853. Emerson found Thoreau lacking drive—“instead of being the head of American engineers, he is captain of a huckleberry party”—and often reticent, even cold. Thoreau, he remarked, after the younger man died, “was with difficulty sweet.”

A deeply sympathetic dual biography.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-131-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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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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