Interesting reading for students of cultural history as well as Spanish-American relations over the centuries.

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THE SPANISH CRAZE

AMERICA'S FASCINATION WITH THE HISPANIC WORLD, 1779–1939

From Hispanophilia to Hispanophobia: a well-considered study of the shifting but, in its main outlines, surprisingly constant view of American elites toward the Spanish Other.

American culture has been bound up with Spanish, Spanish-American, and Hispanic cultures for far longer than the matter of Donald Trump and his wall, although that ugly business is just a reverberation from and continuation of the past. As Kagan (Emeritus, History/Johns Hopkins Univ.; Clio and the Crown: The Politics of History in Medieval and Early Modern Spain, 2009, etc.) recounts in this scholarly study, Henry Adams, William Randolph Hearst, and a host of other influential Americans advanced the “Black Legend” of “the Spain of bloodthirsty conquistadors who slaughtered their way across the Americas” and otherwise contrasted Spanish civilization to the infinitely more enlightened—in their telling—Anglo-Saxon one. Against them were writers such as Washington Irving, who told tales of a sunny Spain, “a light-hearted, quasi-Oriental country that was charming, hospitable, and, most important, relentlessly romantic and picturesque.” William Dean Howells, for his part, called the Spanish “the honestest people in Europe,” leaving it to the likes of Ernest Hemingway to tell his compatriots that not all of them were top-notch fellows; even after the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway could be persuaded to go to Franco’s nation to catch a glimpse of his beloved bullfight. Kagan carefully documents changing attitudes over three centuries of Anglo-American interaction with Spain and its colonial descendants, attitudes that hinge on stereotypes good and bad, from Zorro to the Inquisition and Dolores del Río to Valeriano Weyler. Occasionally, the author even turns the tables, as when he notes that Hearst was broadly considered little more than a looter of Spanish culture "whose seemingly unquenchable appetite for Spanish art and antiques resulted in wholesale ‘destruction’ of Spain’s artistic and architectural patrimony,” just as Americans of many generations have appropriated things Spanish and Hispanic.

Interesting reading for students of cultural history as well as Spanish-American relations over the centuries.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4962-0772-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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