A contemporary window on a remarkable friendship and a divisive decade, which should give considerable pause to those who...

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NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND

THE WHITTAKER CHAMBERS-RALPH DE TOLEDANO CORRESPONDENCE: 1949-1960

An intriguing and illuminating correspondence between two of America's earliest cold warriors.

In 1948, Whittaker Chambers (himself a former Communist agent then employed as a senior editor at Time magazine) exposed Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy. At no small cost, he made his accusation stick, and the liberal poster boy eventually served five years in a federal penitentiary on perjury charges. In the meantime, Manhattan-based de Toledano (then a Newsweek reporter) became a trusted friend of the wary Chambers, who had retreated to a working farm he owned in Maryland. The two soon began writing each other with some regularity, and their letters offer the hair-down commentary of insiders on an eventful era during which Hiss was twice in the dock; de Toledano published Seeds of Treason, a conservative tome; Chambers had an even more successful bestseller (his memoir Witness); the Korean conflict raged; and the political fortunes of Richard Nixon waxed, then waned. Deeply concerned about the Red Menace, the perceived perfidy of the left, and the future of conservatism, the pen pals could be gossipy, even snide, in their assessments of allies, intellectual or otherwise—William Buckley, Bennett Cerf, Dwight Eisenhower, Arthur Koestler, Henry Luce, Joseph McCarthy et al. Nor did they shy from sharing workaday worries involving appropriate outlets for the articles they were writing, the inadequate terms of book contracts, and the well-being of their children. In like vein, de Toledano (who turned 81 in August) and Chambers were not above strutting their intellectual stuff. The correspondence tails off in 1957, when Newsweek assigned de Toledano to its Washington bureau (within easy reach of exurban Maryland) and ends altogether less than one year before Chambers's death in mid-1961.

A contemporary window on a remarkable friendship and a divisive decade, which should give considerable pause to those who recall the 1950s as some sort of golden age without strife.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-89526-425-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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