If today’s political divisions are frightening, Grinspan’s lucid history soothes by recounting when it was far worse.

THE AGE OF ACRIMONY

HOW AMERICANS FOUGHT TO FIX THEIR DEMOCRACY, 1865-1915

Think the present-day politics of hate and fear are bad? It’s all child’s play compared to the half-century following the Civil War.

We wish politics to be civil, writes Grinspan, curator of political history at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. However, the thought that politics should be restrained amounts to “a historical outlier…an invention, the end result of a brutal fight that raged across American life in the late 1800s.” That battle was fought on many fronts. There was the terrorism of Reconstruction, in which an intransigent South managed to elude the spirit of abolition by reconstructing a racist regime. There were the industrialists, battling labor, and labor battling the industrialists—not just through strikes and union agitation, but also through the new instrument of the ballot box. There were also immigrants versus nativists. Grinspan observes that for a good part of the era, the Republican Party held near hegemony. “Never in American history,” he writes, “except possibly for the Virginians of the founding generation, was one bloc so dominant as the postwar northern Republicans.” Whether they used that power effectively is one of the author’s points of discussion, but “atrocious violence” was a conditioning factor: three presidents assassinated, Black Americans lynched, a “cycle of rage” roiling around the polity. Things began to improve, writes Grinspan, when progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt entered the scene and argued successfully that the prevailing view that all politics was corrupt was an excuse for cynicism and inaction. “It is difficult to see the indomitable Theodore Roosevelt as an emblem of restraint,” he writes, but that, in combination with the long-lived politician Will “Pig Iron” Kelley, helped tamp things down. In a highly readable narrative, Grinspan also forges some unexpected connections—linking, for instance, the women’s enfranchisement movement (largely composed of White Protestant women) with a drive “to offset the power of the working-class and increasingly foreign-born male electorate.”

If today’s political divisions are frightening, Grinspan’s lucid history soothes by recounting when it was far worse.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-462-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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