Though Diski sounds melancholy notes (“young is a phase the old go through”) and closes on a note of resignation, her...

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THE SIXTIES

A slender meditation on the 1960s—part of Picador’s Big Ideas/Small Books series.

British novelist/memoirist Diski remembers the ’60s very well. If her British experiences do not always line up with those of Americans, there are abundant parallels. “The Sixties,” she writes, “were an idea in the minds, perhaps even more powerful than the experience, of those who were actually living through them.” In her experience, that idea broke down into many compartments, including the intellectual and artistic. She recounts being turned on to the works of Ginsberg and Kerouac, of course, but also Hardy, Dostoyevsky, Neruda, Joyce, Brecht, Weill and Beethoven, as well as Buddy Holly and the Beatles (“though I was disdainful until Rubber Soul came along”). The idea was political as well, and here Diski is particularly sharp, noting the apparent ingratitude of a generation whose parents suffered depression and war only to raise children who would reject the world that had been made for them. But only for a while. Diski is also sharp—and sharp-edged—about the rise of an entirely different mode of being in the ’70s and ’80s, when ecstatic hippies became egomaniacal yuppies and the politics became truly ugly, as all the government-off-our-backs rhetoric of the antiwar movement converted into the self-serving Hobbesianism of the libertarian crowd. An overreliance on drugs didn’t help, but it didn’t hurt as much as the just-say-no types would have it, either. Writes the author, for the benefit of the uninitiated, “What happened when you smoked a joint and to a far greater extent when you dropped acid was that the world outside your head was utterly changed.”

Though Diski sounds melancholy notes (“young is a phase the old go through”) and closes on a note of resignation, her elegant book might inspire readers—and not just those who were there—to try to remake the era anew.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-42721-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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