A lucid survey of a time that invites all kinds of between-the-lines reading in quest for parallels to our own.



A sweeping history of the ancient Mediterranean.

Fox (Ancient History/Oxford Univ.; The Unauthorized Version, 1992, etc.) traces Greco-Roman history through three themes that have long interested classicists: freedom, justice and luxury. By this measure, the classical world did not fare very well, and Fox’s study becomes a somewhat depressing tale, inasmuch as only luxuria did well in the end, at least for those who had the talents and sesterces to enjoy it. As an ideal, the concept of freedom was perhaps the most important of the three; Fox begins with the Homeric poems, which he has no difficulty (unlike many classicists) in attributing to a single person—or perhaps a single person per epic—who lived around 750–730 b.c. “What we now read has probably been tidied up and added to in places,” he writes, “but at least there was a monumental poet at work.” (Farewell, Millman Parry.) Homeric ideals were translated into education, with all its famed and defamed pederasty, and then into notions of cultural difference that tended to be fairly benign—except, perhaps, in the case of the Jews; those ideals also figured in later concepts of democracy, which Athens, for one, attempted to impose on its neighbors, whence the Peloponnesian War. The Greeks accounted the Romans barbarians, and given the behavior of the Julio-Claudian ruling clan, they had a point: Rome’s first emperors made it a point to restrict freedom, with Augustus, of the “conservative revolution,” the Jerry Falwell of his time, and Augustus’ successors, the kind to give moralists nightmares, with penchants for incest, fratricide, intrigue and conquest. Although ordinary Romans remained sensible—as Fox writes of the warped emperor Claudius, “His death was joyfully received by the common people”—their rulers did not, yielding, in time, a spectacular decline and fall.

A lucid survey of a time that invites all kinds of between-the-lines reading in quest for parallels to our own.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-465-02496-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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