An extraordinary dissection by Powers (White Town Drowsing, 1986, etc.) of the plight and attempted resurrection of two small towns: Cairo, Ill., ``a violent, sorrowful little town'' perhaps breathing its last; and Kent, Conn., a ``prosperity-stricken'' rural town struggling to maintain its identity. Powers's towns have little in common. Cairo, at the southern tip of Illinois, has ``been dying for a hundred seventy years.'' Kent, a placid New England town, finds itself overwhelmed by the real-estate boom of the 1980's. One faces ``death by atrophy,'' the other, ``death by renaissance.'' Powers's meticulous examinations of the past, the hopes for revival, and the vivid personalities of each community reveal the towns' steady evolution to their current state. Following a ``breech birth'' in 1818, Cairo wouldn't build its first structure—prophetically, a tavern—for a decade. Described by Dickens as ``A dismal swamp...an ugly sepulchre,'' the town was populated by gamblers and prostitutes and assorted thugs. By the turn of the century, Cairo was a stronghold of white supremacy, culminating in well- publicized gunplay during the 1960's race riots. Current mayor Al Ross, leader of the neo-Nazi White Hats, is the most visible legacy of that era. Kent, in contrast, hasn't the colorful, volcanic history of Cairo; but therein, notes Powers, lies its problem. This scenic town in the Berkshire foothills has always attracted ``weekenders'' and ``summer people,'' particularly New York artists and writers who, while never actively participating in ``community,'' have added demand onto Kent's limited, fragile infrastructure and services. With the 1980's came the sudden influx of ``fresh money'' as developers and architects imposed their modernized, upscale vision of ``rural'' lifestyle on the community. The rapid overdevelopment left Kent with no real commercial tax base, and thanks to the onset of severe recession throughout New England, the town is now foundering. A revelatory work with a great deal to say about the mythology, history, and future of the American Dream.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-57034-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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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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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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