Witcover is not often deeply reflective—not until the final chapter—and some passages have a cut-and-paste character, but...

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THE MAKING OF AN INK-STAINED WRETCH

HALF A CENTURY POUNDING THE POLITICAL BEAT

A veteran political journalist narrates his journey from typewriter to Internet, from JFK to GWB.

The prolific Witcover (Party of the People: A History of the Democrats, 2003, etc.) calculates that he and his co-columnist, Jack Germond, wrote 6,912 pieces in their 24-year collaboration—in addition to thousands of daily news articles and feature stories. And many books. Most of these, says Witcover, were produced under the most strenuous and stressful of conditions: hard and imminent deadlines, bad food, disingenuous sources. And booze. Witcover recalls waking up at times with a buzzing head and a dim memory. Yet he and his contemporaries—mostly male—still pounded out stories on portable typewriters in the backs of buses and trains. No sissy cell phones and Blackberries in those days! The author begins with a snapshot of his childhood (no other college graduates in his family) and quickly takes us through his years in the Navy (he enlisted just as World War II was ending), through Columbia University, through his first real job, at a Rhode Island paper—all in the first 20 pages. Then he settles in to narrate a fairly conventional chronicle of his years covering some of the most significant events of the last century. He interviewed Otto Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. He covered JFK in West Virginia. He followed Reagan, Romney and Rockefeller. He developed an odd amity with George Wallace. He was in the room when Robert Kennedy was shot. He covered the rise and fall and rise of Nixon, the weird careers of Spiro Agnew and Lester Maddox. He wrote about the self-destructions of Muskie, Eagleton, Hart and Perot. He both mistrusted and admired Clinton and thinks the current White House resident is the most dangerous president in his lifetime.

Witcover is not often deeply reflective—not until the final chapter—and some passages have a cut-and-paste character, but his intimate accounts of American politics over the past 50 years are always engaging, ever intelligent.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8018-8247-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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...

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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