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

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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