VODKA, TEARS, AND LENIN'S ANGEL

MY ADVENTURES IN THE WILD AND WOOLLY FSU

A journalistic Perils of Pauline in what the author breezily terms the ``FSU'' (Former Soviet Union). After a year spent working for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gould, a young Canadian journalist, decided (for reasons that are never made clear) to seek work in the FSU. She doesn't speak Russian and she knows no Russians, but she nevertheless overcomes all the obstacles. She hangs out with 15-year-old hoodlums, Mafia bosses, and YILGs (Young Ivy League Gangsters); she is hijacked, visits the scene of strife in Georgia and the front in Chechnya; and she interviews Vladimir Zhirinovsky on a trip down the Volga. Most chapters are preceded by a pretentious and often not very relevant quotation from Marcuse or some other intellectual luminary, but the book's political heft can be judged by her considered view that ``in practice, Russian Communism may have turned out to be a totalitarian tool for continued state-sanctioned oppression, imperialism and anti-Semitism, but in theory it wasn't so bad. There is a lot of good to found in reading Lenin.'' This may be why she was given the nickname (which delighted her) of Lenin's Ghost. As her experience of the FSU deepens, the quality of her reportage improves, and her assessments of the situation in Chechnya and Georgia, while not very profound, are vivid. So is her portrait of Zhirinovsky, whose emptiness, recklessness, and obsession with sex—he tried in the course of a taped interview with her, representing Playboy, to persuade her and her translator to engage in group sex with two of his bodyguards, in front of him- -come through clearly. A wild and woolly picture, indeed, but the main tension in Gould's gaudy, melodramatic narrative derives from the uncertainty as to whether or not she will suffer an FWTD (Fate Worse Than Death). (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 26, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15241-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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