A lively sampling of unabashedly left-wing commentary from scholar/journalist Wiener (History/Univ. of California at Irvine). Dealing primarily with the academic and pop-cultural manifestations of contemporary political and intellectual debates, these 42 articles, essays, and reviews, published between 1974 and 1990 in such journals as The Nation (where the author is a contributing editor) and The New Republic, offer a cleareyed, surprisingly balanced, and consistently readable view of an alternately comic and alarming battleground. At his best (a series of articles masterfully disentangling the furious efforts of leading deconstructionists to explain the anti-Semitic collaborationist writing of the late Paul de Man; an account of the bizarre ``vendetta'' against Marxist historian David Abraham by mainstream academics), Wiener uses straightforward reportage to expose the absurd posturings of self-righteous ideologues. Regrettably, his own devotion to ``moral issues'' brings the author perilously close to tripping over his own political correctness. Thus, while pieces on such knotty university issues as striking a balance between free-speech guarantees and protecting victims of verbal abuse serve as thoughtful considerations of difficult questions, a group of essays dealing with right-wing and left-wing academics degenerates into an endless parade of predictable bad guys (Daniel Boorstin, Allan Bloom, Shelby Steele) versus the reliably radical good guys (Jesse Lemisch, Derrick Bell, Eugene D. Genovese). At the same time, as a keen observer of mainstream culture, always alert to ``paradox and irony,'' Wiener delivers an unexpectedly affecting reconsideration of Frank Sinatra as brokenhearted activist (``When Old Blue Eyes was `Red' ''), along with a chillingly funny visit to the Nixon ``Liebrary'' (a ``twisted trip down memory lane'') and a peek at the frightening saga of FBI surveillance of John Lennon (since 1981, the author has been trying to obtain the complete Lennon files under the Freedom of Information Act). Insightful and frequently engaging, though hobbled by the lack of a comprehensive introduction and by some thematic and factual repetition.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-86091-356-2

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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