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



“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...


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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