An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast.

THE FIRE IS UPON US

JAMES BALDWIN, WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR., AND THE DEBATE OVER RACE IN AMERICA

A study of two acclaimed American thinkers on opposite sides of the political spectrum that underscores the enormous race and class divisions in 1960s America, many of which still exist today.

Buccola (Political Science/Linfield Coll.; The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass, 2012, etc.) grounds this engaging comparison between James Baldwin, “second in international prominence only to Martin Luther King Jr. as the voice of the black freedom struggle,” and prominent conservative William F. Buckley in a debate between the two held at the Cambridge Union on Feb. 18, 1965. Taking up the agreed-upon topic of “The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” Baldwin addressed the packed audience “in the position of a kind of Jeremiah” (as a child, he was steeped in biblical teachings from the pulpits of Harlem storefront churches). He poured forth the litany of demoralization that African Americans suffer under white supremacy. It was a powerful, moving speech, and Buckley countered it by scolding Baldwin for “flogging ‘our civilization’ ” and appealing to the audience on the importance of keeping “the rule of law” and “faith of our fathers.” By a 3-1 margin, the youthful audience favored Baldwin’s speech. Yet Buccola builds his well-rendered narrative by offering alternating looks at how the two American intellectuals and writers developed their arguments up to that point. Indeed, both were deeply imprinted by their different upbringings. Throughout his entire life, Baldwin wrote about the Harlem “ghetto” of economic distress and the “moral lives of those trapped within [it].” Buckley, who hailed from a wealthy Connecticut family and attended a prep school and Yale, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, stuck to the dogma, inherited from his father, of “devout Catholicism, antidemocratic individualism, hostility to collectivism in economics, and a strong devotion to hierarchy—including racial hierarchy—in the social sphere.”

An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-691-18154-7

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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