In encyclopedic detail and with Johnsonian style and gusto, Brewer expatiates on the cultural development of a Public—reading, listening, and viewing—and the rise of Taste. Historian Brewer follows his work on the politics and government of the same period in Britain, The Sinews of Power (1989), with a reassessment of British culture as it moved out of the aristocratic Renaissance and rakish Restoration, and evolved into a culture driven in part by an extraordinarily mercantile middle class. Brewer demonstrates how London emerged as the center of a boom in literature, music, and art—admittedly from mercenary forces. Grub Street produced Pope and Johnson; the urban landscape inspired Hogarth and Rowlandson; Handel and Haydn found financial independence in oratorios and public concerts; and David Garrick combined the roles of actor-manager and neoclassical interpreter of Shakespeare. Brewer is equally interested in the consumers of this expanding culture. His glosses of the bookselling trade, the mercurial London theater, and art auctions and exhibitions are supported by firsthand accounts, such as those of Anna Larpent, an intellectual lady of leisure and taste, and Ozias Humphry, a miniaturist who never quite succeeded in the art business. With this refinement of taste, though, a cultural divide emerged between connoisseurs and dilettantes, amateurs and professionals, London and the provinces. Brewer, however, shows how the provinces not only absorbed culture from London but distributed it more evenly as well. Outside the home counties, he unearths lesser-known but interesting figures: Thomas Bewick, a successful Newcastle engraver; Anna Seward, the Lichfield bluestocking and contentious associate of Johnson; and John Marsh, a Chichester gentleman with a passion for amateur music. Only a book as rich, diverse, and allusive as Brewer's could do justice to the phenomenal cultural expansion of 18th-century England. (240 b&w illustrations, 8 pages color illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-23458-2

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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...


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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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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