TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

INSIDE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Based largely on eyewitness accounts, this reconstruction of ``the best known and least understood major event in our history'' depicts the American Revolution not as a rational movement based on Locke's ideas—but as a conflict buffeted by the passions of unruly men. The title refers not only to the song played by the British at their Yorktown surrender but also to the upheaval caused by the eight-year conflict. Although his descriptions of the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party push his narrative off to a rousing, iconoclastic start, Tebbel (coauthor, The Magazine in America, 1991, etc.) doesn't expand the pre-Revolutionary era beyond the Massachusetts theater and can't quite maintain the breathless pace of these set pieces. In his eagerness to save the American Revolution from mummification, he uses present tense and colloquial narration, sometimes to arch effect (``And where is our boy Lafayette?''). He also exaggerates our contemporary glorification of the war (every schoolkid still knows that these were ``the times that try men's souls''). But Tebbel does detail to often stunning effect the problems that plagued the patriots: starving and badly paid soldiers; a citizenry as apathetic as it was opportunistic; a dithering and impotent Continental Congress; recruiting scandals; profiteering contractors; and vicious attacks and reprisals by rebels and loyalists. Although the author admires George Washington for his dogged perseverance and Daniel Morgan for his buckskin charisma, he takes pleasure in the portrait dipped in acid— including ones of Samuel Adams, the Boston firebrand never squeamish about bending truth in the service of propaganda; John Paul Jones, the tyrannical sea-dog-turned-legend by refusing to give up the battle; and General Charles Lee, Washington's one-time second-in-command, a misanthrope who loved dogs more than people- -and who, while in prison, plotted to betray the rebels. Not quite the bottom-rail view of history to which it aspires, nor as revisionist as it hopes—but often vividly impressionistic. (Four maps)

Pub Date: July 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-517-58955-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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...

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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