An uneven summary of a very strange history.

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THE CUBA PROJECT

CASTRO, KENNEDY, AND THE FBI’S TAMALE SQUAD

An account of the early years of official anti-Castroism, forged in the certainty that “America was good, and America was good for the rest of the world.”

Working through books and articles on the period between Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, and adding to them interviews with now-retired FBI agents and other cold warriors, novelist/journalist Pavia (Dutch Uncle, not reviewed) turns in a tale of spy-versus-spy that makes neither side look good. The Havana of the 1950s was a demimonde of brothels and casinos thoroughly under the thumb of American organized crime; on that point, Pavia’s account of movie idol and minor mobster George Raft would be touching were its subject not so loathsome, if less so than Errol Flynn, who “loved Cuba because he could act whatever way he wanted—usually badly—and not have to worry about Hollywood gossipmongers bloodhounding his tracks.” All that changed when the intensely moral-minded Castro rolled into town and threw out the corrupt government—and began executing its soldiers and minor functionaries on Stalinist charges of genocide. The U.S. responded with the formation of an FBI group called the Tamale Squad, a curious moniker given that tamales are a foodstuff of Mexico and Central America, but one that speaks to the agency’s renowned tin ear. Then CIA types like Howard Hunt started spooking around, dreaming up damage. Then came the formation of anti-Castro militias, well-funded by the Kennedy administration (anti-Castro activity first began under Eisenhower), though easily infiltrated by Castro’s agents. Pavia’s sometimes too-breezy tale (“Kennedy was all about youth and vigor and good looks and ambition”) continues with the catastrophe at the Bay of Pigs; Pavia’s account of that grim, useless battle is the best part of the book.

An uneven summary of a very strange history.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4039-6603-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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