A journalist's self-absorbed and ultimately pointless report on his search for the truth about a celebrated forebear who'd disowned him. Seattle Post-Intelligencer correspondent Marshall is a grandson of the late S.L.A. (``Slam'') Marshall (1900-77), a highly regarded military historian. In 1989, an American Heritage article accused Slam, among other things, of fabricating the field research for an influential work on how US soldiers performed in combat during WW II (Men Against Fire, 1947). The mainstream press picked up the story and kept it alive long enough for outraged kinfolk to enlist the aid of John Douglas in clearing Slam's name. Having been drummed out of the family corps by Slam after surviving an honorable discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector in 1971, the author had mixed feelings about undertaking any such campaign. Eventually, though, he set out on a cross-country trek that took him to archives in El Paso, Fort Benning, and the nation's capital, as well as to the home of General William Westmoreland, to frequent reunions with family members, meetings with Slam's disciples and antagonists, and elsewhere. Beyond learning that the elder Marshall's most vociferous critics had personal axes to grind and that Slam may have exaggerated certain aspects of a muddy-boots career ranging from WW I through Vietnam, the author uncovers no evidence that conclusively diminishes or rejuvenates his grandfather's status as a preeminent annalist whose texts have had an enduring impact on battlefield doctrine. Also, unfortunately, Marshall doesn't explain very thoroughly the CO convictions that ruptured his ties to a well-loved grandparent—and without perspectives of this sort, the author's account of his long march seems a weaker effort to set a record straight or to come to terms with yesteryear's troubles. Notes from a reluctant sojourner whose trip through the past yielded remarkably few insights worth sharing. (Eighteen photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 1993

ISBN: 0-8156-0274-X

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Syracuse Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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...


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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