Of much interest to environmentalists, community planners, and policy wonks.



Create a clean, green paper mill in the heart of New York, adding jobs and dollars to a failing economy? Rare is the good idea that is realized without being made somehow less good.

Or good and dead. So former New Yorker staffer Harris (Rules of Engagement, 1995, etc.) proves in this thoroughgoing account of good intentions, white papers, backroom dealing, and, in the end, sabotage. The hero of the tale is 30-ish Allen Hershkowitz, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council who by dint of hard study and work had made himself one of the world’s leading authorities on recycling technologies. Inspired in part by the saga of the Mobro, a New York City garbage scow that in 1987 sailed the high seas seeking a place to deposit its noxious cargo, Hershkowitz concocted a plan by which an essentially abandoned plot of land in the Bronx could be remade into an environmentally progressive factory for de-inking and recycling used paper, which accounted for nearly half of the contents of America’s overflowing landfills and was New York’s biggest export. Hershkowitz recruited a stellar host of allies and even persuaded Maya Lin to design the new factory. But enter an opposing army of special interests, from NIMBY (and sometimes crooked) neighborhood associations to trade unions, from the mayor’s office (Rudy Giuliani comes in for a good shellacking here) to competing paper companies, all bent on either seizing a piece of the action or making sure that the Bronx Community Paper Company is stillborn. As the narrative unfolds, Hershkowitz’s idea is bled dry by a thousand paper cuts, an excruciating torture. Overly laden with detail, Harris’s account has its torturous moments as well, but in the end it adds up to a pointed case study in the conflicting priorities and unforeseen foes that any do-gooder is likely to face in advancing a just cause.

Of much interest to environmentalists, community planners, and policy wonks.

Pub Date: March 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-395-98417-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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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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