Spellbinding account of growing pains in an often-gullible society.




Total immersion in the Jazz Age, viewed through its key personalities.

Flappers, the Model T, F. Scott Fitzgerald, bootleg hooch, and free love all parade by as expected, but historian/biographer Miller (Star Spangled Men, 1998, etc.) zeroes in on the White House, who got elected to it, and why, as crucial in shaping the modern America of the title. First he sketches the dark period leading up to the Roaring ’20s, a time of postwar chaos and turmoil that seems strangely contemporary. (Politicians distracted the nation from labor unrest and racial violence with the massive 1919 Red hunt, during which one man was arrested simply because “he looked like a Bolshevik.”) The election of Republican Warren G. Harding in 1920 was the first in which women could vote, its results the first ever broadcast by radio, and the ensuing creep of corruption by his “Ohio gang” cronies set records of its own, culminating in the Teapot Dome oil-lease scandal. One in three Americans worked on farms in the ’20s, Miller notes, and 44 percent of the population was still counted as rural in 1930. The real story of the decade, he neatly sums up, “is one of constant struggle between city and countryside for the nation’s soul.” Harding’s death in office ushered in “Silent Cal” Coolidge, whose legendary frugality and business-boosting policies (including four rounds of tax cuts that made him a model for then-teenager Ronald Reagan) created a wave of prosperity doomed to crash in the nation’s worst depression. Even Miller’s asides are gemlike, as when he mentions that Rin Tin Tin, leading movie star at mid-decade with his own limo and chauffeur, collapsed during a workout and died in the arms of blonde bombshell Jean Harlow.

Spellbinding account of growing pains in an often-gullible society.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-684-85295-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2003

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


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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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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