THE NET OF DREAMS

A FAMILY'S SEARCH FOR A RIGHTFUL PLACE

Bonfire of the Vanities film chronicler Salamon (The Devil's Candy, 1991) leaves Hollywood for sadder and more personal venues as she searches, none too successfully, to understand her family's history. Actually, Hollywood does put in a brief, distracting appearance in the person of Salamon's pal Steven Spielberg, whose filming of Schindler's List neatly coincides with Salamon's own excavation of her parents' Holocaust experiences on a trip to Eastern Europe. Her quest seems to be threefold: to understand her mother, Szimi, an optimistic, happy-go-lucky soul; her father, Sanyi, the ideal physician and ``saint'' of Adams County, Ohio; and the reason why these two Czech Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and Dachau, would settle in such a poor, remote town at the foot of the Appalachians. But while Salamon (formerly of the Wall Street Journal) can gather all the information, her unusual parents elude her powers of penetration; each is reduced to a single, most salient quality. Szimi's breezy detachment may have helped her survive the wartime trauma of deportation, deprivation, and resettlement, first in Prague, where she met Sanyi, and then in America. But at its extreme, when she revisits Auschwitz, this every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining attitude is downright bizarre (``You know, if I hadn't gone through this place I probably wouldn't have led such an interesting life''). Sanyi (who died of cancer when Salamon was 18) remains a remote figure; admitting herself that she barely knew her father, she paints Sanyi primarily as a dedicated doctor whose long silences and deep rages were due to the loss of his first wife and daughter at the hand of the Nazis. In the end, this narrative is at once too private and too impersonal—the reader floats on the surface of events and characters, unable to to enter into the Salamons' search for a safe place to raise their family. (photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-43121-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1996

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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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