Imagine a collaboration between Arnold Toynbee and R. Crumb and you get a pretty good idea of Gonick's clever and ambitious comic book series. This volume should not be taken as some kind of Mel Brooksish joke. Gonick does his research and interprets his sources with scholarly care. Inspired by the educational comic books of Latin American artist RIUS, Gonick makes world history a blast— literally, with his predilection for onomatopoeic word balloons. In this second collection—the last left us with Alexander the Great schlepping toward Persia—Gonick takes us on a side tour through India and China. He integrates myth and history to establish the origins of sectarian conflict in India, and attends to migration patterns from the Middle East to China in order to explain the development of Buddhism and Confucianism. Dynamic intrigue and the threat of northern barbarians compete with periods of prolonged peace. This highly selective version of Chinese history, though full of diverting stories, will be a bit confusing to readers unfamiliar with the main players. Back in Rome, meanwhile, after the death of Alexander, the republic enters its period of glory, followed by the building of the empire. Problems of succession lead to lots of lurid anecdotes about perverse and insatiable emperors, violent entertainments, brutal conquests—all of which Gonick records with Mad-like irreverence. He equivocates, however, in telling the story of Jesus, ending up with an uneasy mix of canonical fact and outright heresy. His account of the historical rise of Christianity is superb and demonstrates an interesting parallel with China: In both cases alien cults from the edge of the empires eventually captured the capital cities. Gonick's humor is mostly visual and relies on the juxtaposition of comical images with his relatively sober text. Despite his lefty, multi-culty inclinations, Gonick maintains the high level of sophistication, skepticism, and just plain fun established by the first volume.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-42093-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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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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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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