Ambitious pop-cult criticism that fails because of its single-mindedness and humorlessness.




A book-length essay about the recent resurgence of swing dancing and the supposed implications of its renaissance.

In the opening pages of his broadside disguised as paean, New York Press writer Judge comes clean about his youthful radicalism and his turn from it, but even someone incapable of reading between the lines could determine that his was a simple case of teenage antiauthoritarianism followed by the gradual onset of maturity. Abruptly compelled by the work of the historian and social critic Christopher Lasch (in particular, by a reading of The Culture of Narcissism), Judge, like a heathen on the low road to Tarsus, abandoned his leftist “ideology of compassion” and proceeded to apply Lasch’s post-Freudian interpretation of individual development to society as a whole. American society is missing discipline, community, and a healthy sense of play, he declares. He then argues that the recent rebirth of swing dancing has provided exactly the sort of structured and civilized interaction that has been missing from contemporary American civilization for many years now. It is an interesting notion that, with a less Pauline, reactionary tilt (and a touch of wit or a bit less self-consciousness), might seem convincing to those who are not as dour in their view of modern society as Judge, and it would seem a matter of simple common sense to those who participate in similar activities with similar, positive aspects. But Judge’s study lacks the open naïveté and amusement of Jedediah Purdy’s recent For Common Things; in trying to explain the collapse of morality and cultural integrity since the end of WWII, he roams through a catholic range of references, but his argument has a tone of moral penitence and self-righteousness. In the end, his diatribe comes to resemble a rant.

Ambitious pop-cult criticism that fails because of its single-mindedness and humorlessness.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-890626-24-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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