In a series of 69 brief “vignettes,” which portray events in the life and milieu of a fictitious individual from Philadelphia, prolific historian Lukacs (The Hitler of History, 1997, etc.) seeks to portray the decline of the once-regnant Anglo-American civilization and “the ideal of the gentleman.” The author’s intended effect is to evoke interest in real historical problems and issues. The actual effect, however, is rather wearisome—especially since the author insists on giving the reader, at the conclusion of each vignette, an imaginary dialogue between himself and a friend discussing the historic importance of the sketch just concluded. The story Lukacs tells, covering the years from 1901 through 1969, is a familiar one: He sketches the gradual absorption of the influential Anglo-Saxon minority into an increasingly polyglot, multicultural, and turbulent America; the gradual decline of self-confidence of the old Anglo-American culture; and its replacement with a society more egalitarian but more materialist and relativist, and less deferential and ordered. Lukacs explains that this hybrid work has no plot, but rather is a “thread” within the larger “ribbon” of American culture: a “ribbon” he describes in an afterword as a skein of reactive events commencing with the conclusion of WW II and resulting in decadence and decline by the end of the 1960s. Lukacs appears to view the “American Century” as a long descent into barbarism, and he ends, cryptically, with the year 1969, by which time, he argues, “the great cities of America were shivering and deteriorating and when the urban and urbane bourgeois period of American history had come to its end.” He ends by arguing that the ideal of Anglo-American civilization “lived on in the gardens of America and in the minds of ever more scattered, but perhaps still numerous, men and women.” Lukacs has given us some exotic ruminations that are not quite history, not quite fiction, together with many debatable observations, amounting in all to an often tedious literary exercise.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07188-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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...


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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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