An entertaining reminder that American hero worship, media hype, and fierce nationalism haven’t changed much in a century.



A lively historical account of 1918 Boston, a city obsessed with baseball and defeating the Kaiser in Germany.

Roberts (History/Purdue Univ.) and Smith (History/Georgia Tech Univ.), co-authors of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X (2016), tell their story through the lives of two New Englanders—Charles Whittlesey, commander of the “lost battalion” in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive; and Karl Muck, the German conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—and a Baltimore boy playing for the local team: George Herman “Babe” Ruth. As the authors write, the three “became, in 1918, the most famous war hero, war villain, and war athlete. Nearly everything they did was interpreted through the lens of the war.” Whittlesey, an idealistic lawyer, enlisted in 1917. In 1918 in France, his battalion was surrounded. For five days, without food or water and running out of ammunition, they resisted German attacks and a request to surrender until relief arrived. Oppressed by his avalanche of fame, which continued after the war with demands for speeches, parades, and favors, he vanished during a cruise in 1921, probably a suicide. The authors stress that today’s anti-Muslim prejudice pales in comparison to the nationwide anti-German hysteria that victimized the internationally acclaimed Muck. Although unashamedly German, he was no spy, terrorist, propagandist, or anti-American demagogue, accusations that poured from newspapers, women’s clubs, patriotic organizations, and elected officials. Arrested in March 1918, he was interned in a Georgia camp for 18 months and then deported. That year, Babe Ruth was pitching for the Red Sox but was already nationally famous because of his slugging. At the time, baseball was in crisis, with teams crippled by enlistments and conscription and plummeting attendance. Concealing fears of bankruptcy behind fervent patriotism, owners proclaimed that baseball provided moral uplift to war-weary Americans and salvaged a shortened season and World Series that Boston, led by Ruth, won.

An entertaining reminder that American hero worship, media hype, and fierce nationalism haven’t changed much in a century.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7266-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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