A bracing corrective for a literature recently dominated by Ambrose, Brokaw, and other cheerleaders, and just right for a...

THE BOYS’ CRUSADE

THE AMERICAN INFANTRY IN NORTHWESTERN EUROPE, 1944-1945

Brief, wholly memorable essays—sometimes little more than vignettes—on a season in hell.

Not for literary historian and combat veteran Fussell (Veterans, 2002, etc.) all this talk of “the greatest generation” and the mawkish military romanticism that has settled on WWII: the young men, many scarcely more than boys, who fought against the formidable German enemy in places like Normandy and the Hürtgen Forest were a “reluctant draftee army,” their deeds usually less heroic than desperate. Building on his fine memoir Doing Battle (1996), Fussell explores the lives and actions of those boys, “who bitched freely, but seldom cried, even when wounded.” Among the themes he explores, at the length of a few pages or paragraphs, are the widespread dislike for the young Americans among British civilians, who famously complained that they were “overpaid, oversexed, and over here,” and even among the liberated French, “who didn’t at all appreciate the immense black market in Paris run by over two thousand American deserters”; the extraordinary, and underreported, rate of desertion among those boys, traumatized by battle settings straight out of the Grimm Brothers and the constant presence of ignoble death; the carnage of battle in places like the Falaise Pocket, where, Dwight Eisenhower recalled, “It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh” (to which Fussell, ever the curmudgeon, adds, “And Eisenhower is gentleman enough not to offend . . . by dwelling on the smell”); and the general insanity of war and its fighters, torn between the “quite contradictory operations” of trying to kill some people with the greatest efficiency while trying to save others to the same high standards. Throughout, Fussell writes vividly and sardonically, sounding like the spiritual twin of Kurt Vonnegut at some points and an aggrieved Julius Caesar at others, and painting extraordinary scenes at every turn.

A bracing corrective for a literature recently dominated by Ambrose, Brokaw, and other cheerleaders, and just right for a new season of war.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2003

ISBN: 0-679-64088-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Modern Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2003

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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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