Entertaining, affectionate—but not a hit.

GANGSTERS AND GOLD DIGGERS

OLD NEW YORK, THE JAZZ AGE, AND THE BIRTH OF BROADWAY

A skillful novelist fashions an ordinary paean to the Broadway That Was, followed by an unsurprising rebuke of what we’re left with.

New Yorker Charyn (Bronx Boy, 2002, etc.) declares that 9/11 occasioned this Gotham scrapbook. He wished, he says, to honor all of Manhattan by celebrating one particular place, a certain street, a certain time. The author begins with Damon Runyon (whose Broadway stories he greatly admires) and moves more or less chronologically by creating patchy portraits of those who form the popular pantheon of characters who once ruled the street or flashed across the horizon of celebrity or acted or sang or danced or joked in vaudeville. His sketches of Arnold Rothstein, Flo Ziegfeld, Al Jolson, Irving Berlin, Fanny Brice, Jack Johnson, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and George Gershwin will enlighten no one who reads widely or watches A&E’s Biography. Okay, readers may not know that “rosebud,” the last word to escape the lips of Charles Foster Kane, was the private name that William Randolph Hearst gave to the private parts of Marion Davies. Similar shocked delight may accompany the discovery that Jolson called exceptionally sexually adept women “chandeliers” (because they would do it even while hanging from a chandelier). Charyn does give overdue credit to the black performers of the era (e.g., Bert Williams, Florence Mills), all of whom endured crushing indignities, not the least of which was watching lesser (white) talents apply blackface and win popular acclaim. And he retains, even in the most unremarkable passages, the ability to craft a remarkable line (Broadway was “that nighttime capital of chaos”), although he is also quite capable of writing a sentence so ordinary that it seems to have come from the pen of an evil twin (“Both Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were the center of everything, with an aura all their own”). There simply aren’t enough new insights or revelations to justify this parade of well-known stories and personalities.

Entertaining, affectionate—but not a hit.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56858-278-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2003

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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