Despite new sources, Sloyan fails to offer a fresh assessment.



A journalist revisits John F. Kennedy’s legacy.

Beginning in 1960, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Sloyan wrote for the Washington bureau of United Press International, which gave him, he writes, “unimaginable power and influence.” Like many other journalists at the time, he saw Kennedy as a strong leader, “cool but daring.” In his debut nonfiction book, Sloyan revises that view, portraying Kennedy as a craven politician—“devious, ruthless…more pragmatic than principled." The author examines Kennedy’s last year, when Cuba, the incendiary civil rights movement and Vietnam dominated his agenda. Angry and disillusioned, he aims to reveal how Kennedy “duped me and other journalists into misleading readers, librarians, schoolteachers, historians, and filmmakers.” Basing this exposé on tapes Kennedy made using microphones he hid in the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office (a recording system he manipulated at will), as well as oral histories, interviews and historians’ accounts, Sloyan argues that Kennedy lied blatantly to burnish his image. Although journalists reported that he triumphed over Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban missile crisis, the author asserts—as did Michael Dobbs in One Minute to Midnight (2008)—that he secretly acquiesced to the Soviet leader’s demand for missile exchange: Russia would remove missiles from Cuba if the U.S. took theirs out of Turkey. Like Gus Russo in Live by the Sword (1998), Sloyan details Kennedy’s attempts to have Castro assassinated, but Russo’s account is stronger. He attributes Kennedy’s reluctance to support civil rights to his need for Southern votes: He refused to fulfill his campaign promise to end housing segregation, “ignored civil rights leaders on judicial appointments in the South, where justice was brutal for blacks,” and targeted Martin Luther King, Jr. for intense surveillance, with the goal of blackmail. Sloyan devotes most of the book to Vietnam, where he lays the murder of Ngo Dinh Diem at Kennedy’s feet, as did Ellen Hammer in A Death in November (1987).

Despite new sources, Sloyan fails to offer a fresh assessment.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1250030597

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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