Passionate and engaged, but Edward Humes’s Monkey Girl (2007) covers the same ground with equal readability and a less...

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40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS

DARWIN, INTELLIGENT DESIGN, GOD, OXYCONTIN, AND OTHER ODDITIES ON TRIAL IN PENNSYLVANIA

A blow-by-blow account by Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson of the trial that pitted parents and teachers against the anti-evolutionist members of the Dover, Penn., school board who voted to give intelligent design a nod in science courses.

Chapman writes like the screenwriter and director he is, generating scene after scene of courtroom drama with you-are-there immediacy, thanks to vivid sketches of the principals and astute use of verbatim testimony. What makes the account sad but also ominous was the extent to which ignorance and arrogance combined in the fundamentalist board members to stir dissension in the community, inspiring screaming matches, you-are-damned letters and outright threats to the plaintiffs and their supporters. The conduct of the trial itself was exemplary, presided over by the eminently fair and intelligent Judge John Jones, whose occasional displays of dry humor helped relieve tension. (When queried about the portentous biblical association of the 40 days and 40 nights the trial lasted, Jones quipped that it was not “by design.”) Both sides recruited star lawyers: seasoned civil liberties defenders for the plaintiffs, lawyers from the Thomas More Law Center for the defense. In the end, expert witnesses for the plaintiffs carried the day, brilliantly parrying the thrusts of defense lawyers Chapman depicts as dysfunctional, often abrasive and no match for the experts’ intellectual rigor. The author is by no means a neutral observer; indeed, this reportorial work is as self-absorbed as his memoir, Trials of the Monkey (2001). Chapman too often inserts his personal history and the emotional reactions he had to the many he interviewed, even confessing his liking for some of the most extreme bigots. What’s more, he would vote to include creationism in science classes, so that the principles of science itself could defeat it—and strike a blow against the rising tide of evangelicalism in America.

Passionate and engaged, but Edward Humes’s Monkey Girl (2007) covers the same ground with equal readability and a less obtrusive authorial voice.

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-117945-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Collins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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