LETTERS TO KENNEDY

Collections of letters are precious when the correspondents are prominent and the content is of enduring value, for example the Adams/Jefferson letters. In this volume the correspondents are certainly important people, but it’s hard to find additional justification for publication. Veteran economist Galbraith’s letters to John F. Kennedy, from 1959 through mid-1963, are grouped by editor Goodman (History/Rutgers Univ.) into three sections: politics, economics, and foreign affairs. The last is by far the meatiest; the first two are brief and seemingly padded by trivial notes communicating pleasantries or future intentions and are included only to display a clever phrase in the prose. However, Galbraith’s commentary on taxation does provide striking examples both of how things never seem to change and of how thoroughly they can change. On one hand, he notes the existence of “a large part of American conservative and business opinion” that favors tax cuts no matter what the consequences to the budget or the country. On the other hand, in warning against a tax cut, Galbraith claims that “the worst tag of all” is “irresponsibility,” a seemingly archaic view now, when irresponsibility on tax cuts (in relation to budget demands) is apparently a requirement for election to public office. The letters relating to foreign affairs are more substantive, reflecting Galbraith’s posting as ambassador to India. From this vantage point he felt free to comment on south and southeast Asian affairs in general, and notable among his observations are repeated warnings against relying on Diem in Vietnam, an assessment that proved accurate but went unheeded. Reports on politics in India and a military clash with China will be of moderate interest for students of south Asian politics, but ultimately there is little here to capture the attention of the general reader.

Pub Date: May 29, 1998

ISBN: 0-674-52837-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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