Good stuff for Western history buffs, to say nothing of fans of the Post Office.

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WEST LIKE LIGHTNING

THE BRIEF, LEGENDARY RIDE OF THE PONY EXPRESS

Of thundering hooves and priority mail: a lively history of the short-lived but much-evoked Pony Express.

As novelist and pop historian DeFelice (The Helios Conspiracy, 2012, etc.) acknowledges throughout, there’s not much that we know with absolute certainty about some of the players and events in the Pony Express effort, a private enterprise for which records are not always available. The service was fast—a letter could cross half the continent in 10 days thanks to the relay system of riders and fast horses—but “the idea of speed was really the important thing” in a time when telegraph lines were going up and plans for a transcontinental railroad were being conjured. The key players were an unlikely mix of slaveholders, frontiersmen, freighters, and entrepreneurs who saw opportunity in providing a communications infrastructure to a military stretched out across a vast, sparsely settled region. But there’s much more to the Pony Express than just business history, for it threads into a landscape populated by young legends-to-be like Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok, whose stories DeFelice happily weaves into the narrative: Courage and stamina were desiderata, of course, but as he notes, “if gunplay figured into it, so much the better, but you didn’t have to be literally wild to be celebrated. Being tenacious and undaunted in the face of myriad hardships would do.” There’s plenty in the memories of supposed riders like Cody to suggest truth but not much hard evidence to say that they were actually onboard, which lends a nice hazy touch to the whole legend. Soon enough—in just a couple of years—the likes of Western Union, founded by an associate of Samuel Morse, “whose greatest genius was his ability to acquire and merge the various small companies operating local lines,” would put an end to the Pony Express, but for all that, it lives on in memory.

Good stuff for Western history buffs, to say nothing of fans of the Post Office.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249676-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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