OUR MAN IN BELIZE

A MEMOIR

Conroy has redirected his gift for goofy storytelling (The India Expedition, 1992; Old Ways in the New World, 1994) from the fictional accounts of foreign-affairs officer Henry Scruggs to a memoir of his years in what was then British Honduras. Searching for a workplace less toxic than the hydrogen-bomb facility where he was employed, Conroy responded to a newspaper want ad at the suggestion of his wife, and found himself in the US Foreign Service. After an initial posting in Washington, where he undertook ``unimportant, but urgent and high-priority'' tasks, Conroy was appointed vice consul to British Honduras. Upon his arrival to what his obnoxious, and ultimately untrustworthy, boss calls ``in back of beyond,'' Conroy and his young family were temporarily housed in the residence of the local USAID official, who had just committed suicide. The consul introduced Conroy to members of the local diplomatic circle with witty and appallingly rude characterizations, but the new vice consul soon learned there was little cause for discomfort, as no offense was taken. In Honduras his tasks were never urgent or high-priority, but they were extremely important: instructing shippers to mark boxes of needed tires with dog food labels to get them past sticky-fingered customs agents; covering up his accidental opening of mail sent to another nation's consulate; and killing poisonous snakes. When the devastating hurricane Hattie hit the city in 1961, Conroy survived and restored the consulate to some semblance of working order without any help from his superior, who had fled. After a few run-ins with a comical ex-patriate, who eagerly informed on drug runners in the hopes of receiving reward money, Conroy was reassigned to Vienna, where we are to assume things got much more serious. While Conroy admittedly takes a little license with the facts (which he attributes to poor memory), this is an enjoyable account from the eyes of a colonial-era bureaucrat.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-16959-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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