A sometimes-dense but essential history for wine aficionados.



An extensive history of Californian wines from their humble beginnings in the 18th century to modern international acclaim. 

Briscoe’s (The Lost Poems of Cangjie, 2017, etc.) history of Golden State wine begins with the Franciscan monks who first tended vineyards in the San Francisco Mission and produced wine according to the old traditions that they brought to the New World. These wines were mostly used for religious purposes and were hardly comparable to later, prestigious vintages. Although the 1849 Gold Rush brought a population explosion and international acclaim to San Francisco’s food scene, Briscoe notes that now “California is as renowned for its wines as San Francisco is for its food, though the former arrived much more slowly.” Briscoe examines every detail of that slow progression. Although he rightly focuses mostly on the City by the Bay and its surrounding wine countries, he leaves no stone unturned in his survey of the state as a whole, describing a lost Los Angeles that was filled with vineyards and the numerous efforts to produce a great product across California. Historic events intervened, including devastating pests, Prohibition, and the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. But Briscoe also tells of the resilience of such figures as Robert Mondavi, who made good on the promise of the West Coast’s grapes, finally earning the recognition of Paris in the late 20th century. Briscoe’s attention to detail is staggering, and as a result, his exhaustive book is filled with tidbits that will make for fine dinner party anecdotes. For example, he notes the extensive efforts to salvage 2 million gallons of wine after the aforementioned quake by pumping it out of wreckage and chemically changing it into a “fortifying brandy.” He also includes small inserts that offer further information about particular people and practices, as well as images of labels from early vineyards. The overall approach is rather dry, which can make the hefty work feel like a textbook at times—or even a bit of a chore. Nevertheless, Briscoe’s passion for California and its wine often shines through, and the book will offer many surprises to patient readers. 

A sometimes-dense but essential history for wine aficionados.  

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943859-49-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: University of Nevada Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 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...


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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