THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY

RECONSIDERING AMERICA'S PAST, RECOVERING THE PRESENT

The postwar golden age of America, to which conservatives fondly advert, is a historical anomaly that will not likely be repeated: So writes Newsweek International editor Elliott in this well-conceived, thoughtful exercise in political punditry. A Briton, Elliott brings a helpful distance to his analysis of lost glories and current crises. ``Americans whine,'' he says bluntly. ``They live in the most prosperous society that the world has ever seen. . . . And yet they are convinced that their life is miserable.'' We are miserable, he suggests, because we pine for an unrecoverable time, a blip on the screen of history's radar, an era we celebrate for its economic growth, small-town virtues, security, and cultural homogeneity. That moment, which ran from 1945 to 1970, was, Elliott writes, ``a massive freak,'' a false yardstick that fuels a nostalgia verging on heartache. Attuned to such matters, Elliott explores the myth of America as a classless society of equal opportunity, looking at cities like Detroit to show that a huge gulf divides American society: ``For mindboggling contrasts in the quality of life, the Mexican-American border is rivaled by the line that separates the horror of Detroit from a suburb like Grosse Pointe, with its faux chÉteaus and country clubs.'' Yet, Elliott continues, this gulf is an old one, bridged only for a short time by the boom that accompanied the first half of the Cold War—a conflict that is misnamed, Elliott insists, inasmuch as more than 100,000 Americans died on battlefields between 1945 and 1989. The costs of that war and the resulting inflation, he writes persuasively, effectively destroyed the economic boom. Strolling in a leisurely fashion through postwar history, Elliott shows that the reigning bitter class divisions and current furor over international trade and immigration are, in fact, normal conditions in our history. While he stops short of telling Americans to cheer up and shape up, Elliott effectively shows that yearning for our past is unlikely to improve our future.

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80991-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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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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