Atmospheric, modestly entertaining travelogue.




Yank journalist probes into a series of bizarre, sometimes perilous, competitive and/or commemorative events kept alive in tightly knit British communities.

Some of these spectacles, Daeschner relates, like the Shrovetide football contests held in a number of British towns with pubs—he singles out Haxey—do have centuries of tradition behind them. This venerability allows the author, from his viewpoint as the droll American observer, to speculate on the subtle fact that mass drunken violence is actually organized rather than simply allowed to occur randomly. And when he joins in the scrum—officially known as the Sway in Haxey—for firsthand experience, there’s plenty of leg-breaking and skull-concussing atmosphere, but not much comes by way of explanation as to its origins. The shin-kicking competition in Chipping Campden, on the other hand, has direct connections to a misbegotten, as it were, attempt in 1612 to recapture the glory of the original Greek “Olympicks.” But, unlike downhill cheese-rolling races in Gloucestershire (where no one ever catches up with the cheese), “horn dancing” with a huge rack of antlers tied on or burning the pope (in effigy) in Lewes, other events on Daeschner’s itinerary may simply be figments of modern touristic inspirations in locales that have little else going for them. Bog-snorkeling in the Welsh town of Llanwyrtud would be a prime example of the latter; and, again, the author submerges himself futilely in fetid, bacteria-laden muck to capture the feel and spirit (though that may be too generous a word) of the contest. While the reporting is energetic and exploratory, these situations, packed together, cry out for TV coverage. The author’s attempt in a preamble, however, to integrate them under some sociological compulsion of Britons not to be boring lacks both style and conviction.

Atmospheric, modestly entertaining travelogue.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58567-656-X

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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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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