A valuable, perspective-shifting work of both cultural and Midwestern history.



A strong argument for the Midwestern city’s place as a hub for modernism as vibrant as Paris, Berlin, and New York.

If the modernist movement was about smashing convention in poetry, prose, and visual art, then Olson (Director, Chicago Studies/Newberry Library; Modernism and the Ordinary, 2009) finds plenty of evidence that Chicago was, if not at the forefront, then a key player in the movement. It was home to Harriet Monroe, the founder of Poetry magazine, which was a launch pad for Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and T.S. Eliot. It hosted the 1913 Armory Show, bringing pioneering cubist works to a broad audience. Fanny Butcher, the influential book critic at the Chicago Tribune, encouraged her readers to take a chance on Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, who was a regular (if contentious) visitor to the city and stoked its small but vibrant culture of experimentalists. The city was also home to Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks, innovative writers who helped define the black American experience before World War II. “Without Chicago,” writes Olson, “no consideration of the modernist movement is complete.” The city’s role may not be as towering as that of Bauhaus or the futurists—and the Armory Show and Stein weren’t homegrown—but Olson’s argument is still lively and persuasive, finding rich pockets of creativity throughout the city. Just as important, she reveals how modernism acquired a kind of populist vigor in Chicago: Monroe, for instance, was able to persuade meatpacking executives to help finance Poetry, and Butcher’s bully pulpit made tricky works accessible, if not always comprehensible, to a wider audience while influencing Hemingway's career. If Chicago wasn’t modernist central, it was the place where it became more than an elitist act, and though Olson approaches the subject with academic rigor, she writes with force, as well as originality, crafting fictionalized vignettes of her subjects’ experience of the city.

A valuable, perspective-shifting work of both cultural and Midwestern history.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-20368-4

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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