THE LAST BROTHER

Can one sympathize with a rich, powerful, boozing, aging roue of a US senator? Maybe—if the senator is the Ted Kennedy presented in McGinniss's harsh but oddly compassionate biography. It's a lot more difficult, actually, to sympathize with the rich, powerful, aging bestseller of a writer—who, if even half the accusations are true, not only created scenes for this book out of whole cloth but plagiarized William Manchester's The Death of a President (1967). Save for a coda that summarizes Kennedy's slide toward irrelevance in recent presidential elections, McGinniss takes the senator only up to Chappaquiddick, which he considers not only the mangling of one man's political aspirations but also the final price paid for Joe Kennedy's dynastic hopes: "The nation...demanded that Teddy live not only his own life but, also, simultaneously, the unlived portion of the lives of his three older brothers." Except for one typically unsourced assertion that Ted phoned a onetime girlfriend in the hours after the accident, McGinniss hasn't uncovered much about Chappaquiddick not revealed in Leo Damore's Senatorial Privilege (1988)—but that's hardly surprising given the recent revelations about the author's apparent penchant for creative research. In any case, the thrust of McGinniss's narrative, whatever its provenance, is that, from the start, Ted was too emotionally maimed for the burden laid upon him: His parents shuttled him to ten schools by age 13 but visited him in none; Joe saw Ted's expulsion from Harvard as a threat to Jack's political hopes; Jack and Bobby were aghast that Joe had pushed Ted into his first Senate race so early in his career; the two assassinations launched Ted toward the boozy self-destruction that led to Chappaquiddick. It's all told with verve: but veracity? Caveat emptor.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-67945-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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