THE MAKING OF VICTORIAN SEXUALITY

Of the many books since the 1960s that claim to overturn the clichÇ of Victorian prudery, this is surely the least interesting, persuasive, and readable. Mason (English/Univ. College, London) broadly defines the Victorian era as starting with the 1790s—the Romantic, Regency, or Georgian period—and petering out well before 1900, his cut-off date. He's certainly done resourceful and intensive research (check out the mammoth bibliography); his text considers such varied sources as working-class papers, medical reports, popular culture, and religious writing. Missing, however, is analysis of the major cultural landmarks that Peter Gay illuminates so brilliantly in his still uncompleted series on ``the bourgeois experience.'' Using imperfectly assimilated sociological jargon, Mason argues that a crisis in confidence in courtship and marriage for the first two or three decades of the 19th century encouraged prostitution and casual sex; that interest in marriage and concubinage was renewed at mid-century; and that the introduction of artificial contraception revived sexuality after 1860. The moral ``recalibration'' that began in the lower classes with a rise in sexual ``moralism,'' he asserts, became a sign of political progress throughout the period, touching the middle classes as well. Considering popular entertainments, housing, class orientation, and medical attitudes, he finds a discrepancy between sexual attitudes and behavior—in brief, Victorian hypocrisy—a discrepancy he criticizes Foucault for overlooking, but one that he claims anthropologists find in many societies. While the material is interesting, Mason's focus is so narrow, his writing so gnarled, his syntax so confusing, his structure so uncertain, that it is difficult to follow his argument or ascertain the direction in which he is moving (toward the end he proposes a second volume). Hard to imagine why anyone would prefer this volume to Gay's, or even read it afterward.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-812247-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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