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 14, 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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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