HISTORY AS MYSTERY

paper 0-87286-357-3 A somewhat scattered but well-considered manifesto for a history that serves as a weapon —in the age-old war for our intellectual emancipation.— A quarter of college seniors cannot come within 50 years of pinpointing Columbus’s arrival in America; 40 percent cannot give the dates of the Civil War; most cannot distinguish WWI from WWII, except to guess that one preceded the other. Small wonder, says left-wing historian Parenti (Dirty Truths, 1996, etc.), for most written history is —an ideologically safe commodity— that serves the interests of the ruling class—and that in any event is generally pretty uninteresting fare. At points in this collection of essays, Parenti examines the nature of American history textbooks, which, he believes, ignore or undervalue the contributions of ethnic minorities, women, and labor; considers the influence of Christianity on European culture, a tradition, he argues, that is replete with misogyny, anti-Semitism, and book-burning; and generally offers assessments of the nation’s past that would give Lynne Cheney and William Bennett fits. Opponents of left-wing points of view will immediately dismiss Parenti’s arguments as more liberal breast-beating; proponents of those points of view will likely admire this book, which suffers only from a tendency to repeat attention-getting slogans on matters of racism, sexism, and classism. Historically minded readers on the left and right alike will find Parenti’s account of the 1991 exhumation of President Zachary Taylor—who, some scholars have suspected, was assassinated by poisoning—to be of much interest. Parenti takes issue with the conclusions of that long-after-the-fact inquest, writing that —the chief medical examiner’s investigation pretended to a precision and thoroughness it never attained,— while the media —eagerly cloaked the inquest with an undeserved conclusiveness.— Solid if surely controversial stuff.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-87286-364-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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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