“The relation between culture and tyranny is a complex one,” Kater concludes. Indeed, and his book does much to make it...


A much-needed study of the aesthetics and cultural mores of the Third Reich, with often surprising turns.

Kater (Emeritus, History/York Univ.; Hitler Youth, 2006, etc.), a widely published scholar of the Nazi era, begins with the premise that “in order for a new Nazi type of culture to take hold, the preceding forms first had to be wiped out.” These forms were those presumed to be “non-German” and, indeed, were largely Jewish or African: jazz, modernist art, anything smacking of the avant-garde–ism of the Weimar era. Joseph Goebbels was among many Nazi officials who took the lead in bringing music, film, architecture, and the like under the control of the regime. Though Hitler had a thorough cultural program in mind, his tastes were not always predictable or widely shared: He may have revered Wagner, but he wasn’t much of a Beethoven fan even if, in 1934, Goebbels, always pressing for a “German” art, “cut down on the political crudities and embarked on a campaign of promoting serious music, beginning with a Beethoven cycle in February, followed by rich programs of music by Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Bruckner.” Hitler, like so many readers of German fiction, was a fan of the pseudo-Westerns of Karl May, but he had no special interest in farming and so paid little attention to his regime’s emphasis on “blood and soil" novels celebrating farming and the outdoor life. Nazi officials spared a few Jewish practitioners of the arts, but most suffered the same fate as Jews everywhere in the Reich. In a narrative rich in detail and documentation, Kater examines such matters as the plotlines of films in the wake of the defeat at Stalingrad, competition among various Reich figures and ministries to take the lead in cultural matters, the flight of German intellectuals such as Thomas Mann to the U.S., and the general mediocrity of Nazi art.

“The relation between culture and tyranny is a complex one,” Kater concludes. Indeed, and his book does much to make it comprehensible.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-300-21141-2

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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