Plimpton or Mailer it isn’t—not even Cosell. Still, fans of the sweet science should enjoy this shaggy yarn of a bygone...




Former Sports Illustrated senior writer Hoffer (Something in the Air: American Passion and Defiance in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, 2009, etc.) turns in a sprawling piece on the “riotous roundelay” that was the battle of three boxers for the world championship.

The author locates that competition within brackets of great historical events: the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the fall of Saigon and, in between, Kent State, when, in a curious turn of phrase, he notes that National Guardsmen killed four college students “for no real good reason.” That throwaway phrase is symptomatic, for while Hoffer certainly knows his story and his actors, he infuses it with a know-it-all casualness that can be grating at times. Would Ali, Frazier and Foreman really have been “athletic footnotes” in another era? Not likely: All three were staggering, scary, brilliant fighters, each in his own way, with Ali (whose conversion to Islam, Hoffer writes, might have branded him as a “religious kook” had he not redeemed himself by refusing to serve in the military) blessed with a devastatingly poetic wit atop it all. Hoffer’s sociology is suspect and too often heavy-handed. His account of the actual fighting, though, is immediate and arresting. The same holds for his portrait of the swirling sideshow that surrounded the three, with Ali delivering, for instance, “an unrelenting attack on Frazier’s intelligence,” Frazier responding with “classic menace” and Foreman coolly assessing the weird international arenas in which they were thrust. There’s not much here that can’t be found in the grand documentary film When We Were Kings, but Hoffer offers plenty of reasons why we should still remember, and esteem, the lethal trio for more than bucking the draft and hawking stovetop grills.

Plimpton or Mailer it isn’t—not even Cosell. Still, fans of the sweet science should enjoy this shaggy yarn of a bygone contest and era.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-306-82222-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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