Reverential attitude at odds with its gritty premise—but all of which NASCAR fans will lap up.




Setting his sights on the NASCAR phenomenon, Thompson (Light This Candle, 2004) focuses on the sordid origins of the sport, this country’s second most popular, behind only football.

It’s a provocative premise. As the author reminds us, stock-car racing was invented by moonshiners who first conceived of souping up Ford V-8s in order to elude Prohibition-era law-enforcers as they hauled corn whiskey from mountain stills in the hills of northern Georgia down into the cities of the deeper South. Dodging hairpin curves and wily cops, these moonshiners, in Thompson’s view, exemplify American ingenuity and self-reliance, qualities he suggests continue to make NASCAR so extremely widespread. Controversial NASCAR founder Bill France worked hard to distance the sport from its shady origins, striving to organize and legitimize a pastime seen as low-class, criminal and distinctly Southern. Recounting those disjointed early efforts, the author warmly reveals his admiration for pioneer drivers such as Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall and Red Byron, mechanic Red Vogt and, above all, for the races themselves. Unfortunately, Thompson’s transparent affection for his subjects prevents him from objectively assessing NASCAR’s legend-enshrouded figures. He displays all the skill of a seasoned journalist in his pacing and savvy storytelling, but his awestruck worship of his subjects, voiced in purplish prose, betrays a “homer” mindset. Swept up in the frenzy of the adrenaline-charged races he narrates, the author often interpolates thoughts and emotions to which he cannot be privy. This is a shame, because his grasp of the sport’s history is abundant and presentation of anecdotes exceedingly interesting.

Reverential attitude at odds with its gritty premise—but all of which NASCAR fans will lap up.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8225-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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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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