Engrossing study of top-level creativity-by-committee.



Tofel (Vanishing Point, 2004, etc.) concludes that JFK aide and speechwriter Theodore C. Sorenson was the principal author of the 1961 inaugural address.

Even though Sorenson publicly refuses the attribution, he did grant Tofel, former assistant publisher of the Wall Street Journal, extensive interviews regarding the speech. The author directly contradicts the conclusion of JFK researcher Thurston Clarke (Ask Not, 2004), who lately gave principal authorship credit to the president. “Of the 51 sentences in the inaugural address, John Kennedy might be said to have been the principal original author of no more than 14,” Tofel asserts, and that’s giving the President credit for every sentence of “unclear” origin. He adds that with,changes made during a transcription of dictation taken by Kennedy's secretary plus his ad libs in delivery, “only nine sentences were principally originally Kennedy's. This compares with eight sentences from Adlai Stevenson.” A handful of other Kennedy associates and backers, the author notes, donated “language” reflected in the final read—not to mention multiple, readily traceable references from two of JFK’s personal icons, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Tofel’s probe is resplendent with minutiae. (He relates, for instance, how at one point during the speech, Jackie Kennedy dented her pillbox hat while trying to keep it from blowing away. Within weeks, designers were offering pillbox hats pre-dented.) Above and beyond the controversy that is the center of the book, Tofel offers a worthy examination of inaugural addresses in general and a look at how the Kennedy mystique captured the nation’s attention.

Engrossing study of top-level creativity-by-committee.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2005

ISBN: 1-56663-610-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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


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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