Straightforward and unsentimental; no one can accuse Gould of falling in love with his subject.

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A HISTORY OF THE MODERN UNITED STATES SENATE

Gould (Grand Old Party, 2003, etc.) provides a judgmental history of the 21st-century U.S. Senate.

Gould tries to demystify the personalities and procedures of the modern Senate. Where many writers have lauded the vision and classical debate of the Senate chamber, Gould depicts hubris and archaic procedures. He reduces many senators' motivations to ambition, sometimes impugning motives without detailed proof. Gould argues that mass media and rising campaign costs changed the Senate from an elitist bastion of private deliberation to a publicly televised partisan spectacle. Yet for a history of a famously deliberative body, there are few excerpts from actual debates or hearings. (Senator Robert Byrd's books on the Senate are better primary sources.) Gould is more neutral and lively when he turns to the ramifications of historic clashes between senators and presidents. He recounts how Senator Robert La Follette's fiery antiwar speeches led Theodore Roosevelt to dub him “the most sinister enemy of the democracy in the United States.” The bitter relationship between President Wilson and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Henry Cabot Lodge doomed the League of Nations. And the Senate's indignation with FDR's high-handed treatment paved the way for the firm opposition and eventual defeat of his gambit to pack the Supreme Court. Gould also finds fault with several Senate eras. At the turn of the century, widespread alcoholism hindered the institution; before World Wars I and II, the Senate was myopically isolationist; at mid-century, it callously ignored civil rights and women's equality; after Watergate, senators obsessed over publicity and fundraising. Gould is particularly disappointed that today's Senate is “driven primarily by partisanship and pork.”

Straightforward and unsentimental; no one can accuse Gould of falling in love with his subject.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-02778-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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