ONE NATION UNDER SEX

HOW THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PRESIDENTS, FIRST LADIES, AND THEIR LOVERS CHANGED THE COURE OF AMERICAN HISTORY

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...

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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