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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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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