Of prurient politicians and pulsating presidents.

Having earned renown as a pornographer and as a champion of First Amendment rights, Flynt moves onto slightly more scholarly turf by recruiting professor Eisenbach (American History/Columbia Univ.) to the cause of studying all the naughty stuff about our leaders. The result is something of a set of salacious index cards, not really connecting to anything except passing the test—presumably, that test being the reader’s ability to titillate an audience at the next cocktail party with juicy details about Dolley Madison’s derriere and Eleanor Roosevelt’s fondness for Sapphic threesomes. What’s that, you say? Well, Dolley was known in her time for bestowing kisses and much, much more on the powerful men of her day, calming down just a little after marrying future president and well-known drag James Madison. But, but, a reader familiar with those fine denizens of Montpelier and the Executive Mansion will object, that’s not true. Right, admit the authors: “Although the tales of Dolley’s rampant promiscuity are not true, the story of how they got started provides insight into how this one woman rocked the political world of the young Republic.” And so most of this book is a collection of saucy gossip guaranteed to thrill an impressionable eighth-grader. The authors’ general strategy is to present this gossip as fact—for how could one sell dirty stories about Lincoln, Eleanor, and even J. Edgar otherwise—and only then to backpedal to what everyone knows, which is that Bill Clinton was a horndog, James Buchanan a walker on the wild side, J. Edgar a walker in women’s pumps, etc. Meh. If you’re not up on the sex life of, say, Millard Fillmore, then you might learn a thing or two here. Otherwise, this book mostly titters and snickers at the back of the class.


Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-230-10503-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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

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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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