First-rate social and theatrical history combined with a dash of Shakespearian critical appreciation: a noteworthy story.

THE SHAKESPEARE RIOTS

REVENGE, DRAMA, AND DEATH IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA

From British journalist Cliff, a lapidary chronicle of a drama turned deadly: the 1849 brawl in front of the New York’s Astor Place Theater that resulted in more than 20 deaths.

The immediate cause assigned to the mayhem was conflict between the robust American style of performing Shakespeare and the daintier English approach. But there was more to it, Cliff demonstrates in his debut. The works of the Bard were part of America’s popular culture, familiar to all. Favored performers boasted fans to rival those of any modern day rap or rock artist. Forceful American Edwin Forrest, “The Native Tragedian,” was a studly heartthrob. Acutely sensitive Englishman William Charles Macready, “The Eminent Tragedian,” practiced more thoughtful interpretation. These dueling thespians appealed to disparate classes in national society. The kid-gloved swells appreciated Macready’s effete English mode of acting, while plebian nativists favored Forrest’s hearty American take. Their fanatical supporters caused the stars, once quite fond of each other, to become acting enemies. In the fateful spring of 1849, as the touring Macready arrived in New York, they scheduled conflicting performances of Macbeth, a signature role for both. Vowing to rout the fancy Englishman and his clique, the city’s feisty Bowery b’hoys and hustlers took to the streets, and the tragedy was played out. Cliff skillfully portrays the successes, failures and feelings of the lead actors, as well as a supporting cast that includes Charles Dickens and rascally dime novelist Ned Buntline. High drama prevails right up to the final curtain.

First-rate social and theatrical history combined with a dash of Shakespearian critical appreciation: a noteworthy story.

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-345-48694-3

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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