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WHEN AMERICA WAS GREAT

THE FIGHTING FAITH OF POSTWAR LIBERALISM

A slight work about a bygone era, but with lessons to offer for our own time.

Time was, in the antediluvian years before Reagan, that “liberal” was a handle a fighting man could cop to. Its devaluation into the much-maligned “L word,” writes the author, owes as much to left as right.

There’s not much new in those observations or in the others Mattson (History/Ohio Univ.) makes here, which amounts to a quite readable survey of the golden age of America’s policy-oriented public intellectuals: men (and a men’s club it was) such as Arthur Schlesinger, Archibald MacLeish, Bernard De Voto, and John Kenneth Galbraith. They cut their teeth on WWII, when they found themselves playing influential roles in outfits like the Office of War Information (from which one memo sternly reprimanded Hollywood for its racist portrayal of Japanese soldiers: “This is not a racial war”) and the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, which taught Schlesinger, for one, that American power needed to be projected into the world. After the war, working through messengers such as the New York Post (now anything but liberal) and various journals of opinion, they offered close analyses of government policy and promoted social service and responsibility: thus their rejection of consumer culture for giving “priority to private satisfaction while denigrating public life.” Their opinions were so diverse, writes Mattson, that their ideas of what constituted a “realistic” foreign policy could allow both for America’s taking the lead in otherwise untrustworthy international organizations and for its taking pains to build international alliances—an ambivalence that played out in what has been called (unfairly, the author argues) the “liberals’ war,” Vietnam, but more recently in Iraq as well. Without playing the counterfactual card too explicitly, the author suggests that the world might have a much different shape today had the increasingly liberal-leaning JFK not been killed; then, perhaps, the New Left would not have turned against the Old Left, liberal anticommunism might have prevailed, and Reagan might not have arisen to call liberals bad names.

A slight work about a bygone era, but with lessons to offer for our own time.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-415-94775-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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