An unfailingly interesting, highly readable contribution to Starr’s grand series, which is drawing to a close. (Readers...

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COAST OF DREAMS

CALIFORNIA ON THE EDGE, 1990-2003

In which Starr brings his magnificent, multivolume series Americans and the California Dream, the product of a quarter-century of work, up to the present.

After all that time, Starr (The Dream Endures, 1997, etc.; History/Univ. of California, Los Angeles) admits, he had come to wonder whether he “had chosen a dead end. Was California an aberration, a sideshow, or, worse, a case study in how things could go wrong for the United States?” The events he covers here do not offer a powerful argument otherwise: the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult, the LA riots of 1992, the collapse of the public sector in the wake of taxpayer revolt, the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Things have always been different in California, Starr allows. Consider the cafeteria of religions, for example, about which he marvels early on: LA is a center for the New Age, but also for Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Pentecostalism, and Catholicism—and, on top of that, “the third largest Jewish community in the world.” But some recent trends have been both strange and unhealthy. One is a growing class division, manifested by laws that, for instance, make it impossible “for anyone other than the very wealthy to build on a restricted number of sites” near the ocean, even though access to the ocean was once one of the great democratic promises of California. Another is the rising tension between immigrants and natives, resulting in the phenomenon of “white flight” to neighboring states. Another is downwardly trending economy, for all those immigrants’ contributions to it. Still another, though perhaps curbed now, is the abrogation of public control to private interests that led to such things as the energy scandal: “The state preferred to let the boys from Texas do its dirty work, and Texas would soon be eating California’s lunch.” And so on. There’s plenty to be worried about, in other words, out there on the edge.

An unfailingly interesting, highly readable contribution to Starr’s grand series, which is drawing to a close. (Readers still have Starr’s take on the 1960s to look forward to; the next volume, he’s threatened, will be called Smoking the Dream.)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2004

ISBN: 0-679-41288-3

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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