Witty and opinionated insight on how “bad” behavior can morph into, out of, and back into favor over the course of time.



How and why the tolerances for debauchery have changed over the course of time.

Screenwriter, playwright, and author Stein (American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why, 2014, etc.) formulates an astute, fascinating, occasionally overwrought treatise on why vices became such hot-button issues in past eras yet tend to normalize and often empower today. The author reaches back as far as the beginnings of the British settlements when Native Americans shared their tobacco and thus provoked a perennial “tail-chasing war on vice.” Smoking soon became frowned upon, even outlawed, as did bowling, shuffleboard, and juggling, all activities considered gateways to gambling, brawls, and witchcraft. Stein moves from puritanical Massachusetts, with laws against adultery, virginal sex, and homosexual acts, to the post-Revolution vices of pornography and prostitution. The author also spotlights America’s nationwide war on drugs, the beginning of which occurred with the Opium Exclusion Act in 1909. Whether it was 19th-century housewives addicted to laudanum, Mormon polygamists, Nevada prostitution, or interracial sex, vices, writes Stein, remain a constant source of pleasure for indulgers and aggravation for detractors. Much progress has been made, he notes, in overhauling industries such as the movie business, which has historically promoted violence through action films while glamorizing drug use and cigarettes. Stein takes particular aim at public moral reformers throughout history—e.g., moralist Anthony Comstock and the Catholic Church, both entities who made their marks on society by staunchly advocating vice repression. The author regrettably devotes less attention to our modern, politically challenged, easily offended society, where freedom still reigns and creative arts, even excessively controversial expressions, remain unpunishable under the First Amendment. Stein believes that in examining what was considered a vice a century ago, juxtaposed with what is considered immoral by today’s standards, we are offered a glimpse into how morals and behaviors shape-shift and how we all change and adapt within an ever evolving society.

Witty and opinionated insight on how “bad” behavior can morph into, out of, and back into favor over the course of time.

Pub Date: July 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61234-894-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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