MEANS OF ESCAPE

An intensely personal, albeit consistently affecting and frequently riveting memoir of years of living dangerously. Caputo (A Rumor of War, Indian Country, etc.) has witnessed much of the worst violence that marked the latter half of the 20th century. A combat veteran of Vietnam, he went on to cover trouble spots throughout the Third World as a roving correspondent for The Chicago Tribune. Describing himself as drawn to history (if not to the sound of the guns), the globe-trotting author has reported on insurgency in Eritrea, civil strife in Lebanon, Israel's October War, the fall of Saigon, and a host of lesser belligerencies. Looking for a ``good war'' several years after having quit the journalism trade, Caputo accepted an assignment from Esquire that took him deep behind Soviet lines in Afghanistan. Venturesome to the point of rashness, he has paid the price of boldness on many occasions. Though he made it through Vietnam without a physical scratch, for example, the author was imprisoned by Palestinian guerrillas in Beirut and later sustained severe wounds (at the hands of Christian militia) in the same city, leaving him with a still-painful limp. Peacefully settled in one place now, he's content to let a workroom window overlooking a salt marsh on the Long Island Sound serve as his new means of escape. Caputo nonetheless looks back on his days as a rolling stone with some relish and few apparent regrets. Indeed, he retains a rueful sense of barracks humor neatly summarized in an ultrarude anecdote whose moral is: ``the final indignity is that there is no final indignity.'' An episodic, impressionistic, and dead-honest narrative that affords memorable as well as consequential insights into a chaotic era's noteworthy conflicts.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-018312-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

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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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