An illuminating, well-paced narrative that will interest students and imbibers of the wee drap, American-style.

BOURBON EMPIRE

THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICA’S WHISKEY

“America was astonishingly drunk.” So concluded just about every visitor to these shores in the early days of the republic.

Who would have thought that taking a plug from the jug could be a resonant political act? Mitenbuler, a journalist who specializes in “drinking culture,” combs the archives to turn up stories both entertaining and revealing about how bourbon came to be identified as a national drink—a process as artificial and as eagerly swallowed up as the invention of Paul Bunyan. And not just national: by Mitenbuler’s reckoning, Rebel Yell, later beloved of Keith Richard and other rockers, was a coded rejection of the nascent civil rights movement in the South. Meanwhile, other brands became popular in part thanks to deals cut with the military to place it in commissaries around the world—deals in keeping, it seems, with some of the charges of wartime profiteering that industry executives faced in the 1940s. The author can occasionally be smart-alecky (“Jack Daniel’s today is often seen as a bit downmarket, the quaff of biker bars and a prop of Guns N’ Roses band photos”), but mostly he takes his work seriously, offering up intriguing tidbits—on, for example, the makeup of George Washington’s own blend, revolutionary inasmuch as it drew on homegrown rather than imported ingredients, part of a process that “increasingly turned into a popular symbol of national unity and self-sufficiency that helped clear away rum’s whiff of colonial rule.” Mitenbuler closes with a brief account of the hipster-fueled revival of bourbon by means of Maker’s Mark, “a celebrity alongside a few other star brands,” and the rise of bespoke microdistilleries that traded in millennial notions of authenticity and locality over the values favored by boomers, “who held the quaint notion that ‘taste’ was most important.”

An illuminating, well-paced narrative that will interest students and imbibers of the wee drap, American-style.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01683-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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