AMERICAN JOURNEY

TRAVELING WITH TOCQUEVILLE IN SEARCH OF DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA

Political scientists, sociologists, economists have reviewed Tocqueville's descriptions and prophecies—but it was a journalistic brainstorm to take the notes Tocqueville made during the 1831 tour on which Democracy in America was based (published in 1938 as Tocqueville and Beaumont in America), and "recreate Tocqueville's journey": ask the same questions of the same sorts of people; see what American democracy had become. For Reeves, it also starts as a chance to sound off, with a nod to Tocqueville, on perennial themes of his own: big government (which Tocqueville warned against), low-caliber leadership (which he decried). And the book is as much Reeves as Tocqueville throughout. But in the passage from Newport to Montgomery to Detroit to Boston and New York, the big questions that Tocqueville raised—"tyranny of the majority," commercialism, social inequality, racial discrimnation—surface again and again. In Newport, Reeves finds 79 radio stations to choose among, plus six areanewspapers and 250 different magazines. "Did information, the truth, set men free—or were individual thought and action drowning in tidal waves of facts and ideas?" In Rochester, seat of Gannett newspapers, the question takes another turn—giving the public what it wants ("Neuharth is interested in growing, not in education"). But in Rochester, too, social critic Christopher Lasch ("Democracy. . .has failed") and Marxist historian Eugene Genovese ("It's still working") differ. So the pot bubbles. Cincinnati brings a review of judicial power. Potter Stewart, a native son: "The courts have replaced the frontier" as a liberating force; Darlene Kamine, a 27-year-old attorney: "Our system is based on equal access. . .the 'little' man can go one on one with the faceless corporation" (and so feels part of the system). In Detroit come the stiffest views—from talented, successful blacks: "the old rigidity is returning. The golden time is over for people like me. The white reaction to the riots was defensive. Next time it will be offensive." Yet Reeves ends positively: democracy is effective in translating "the will of the people. . .into public policies and systems protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." No order, no rigor, no real resolution-but a lively sounding on issues that democracy itself keeps alive.

Pub Date: May 28, 1982

ISBN: 0671470671

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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