Shafer makes his readers feel that we are not alone—not the first and, sadly, not the last to be bamboozled.




A history of the 1840 campaign, “the mother of modern presidential contests” and “the beginning of presidential campaigning as entertainment.”

They were hard times: jobs were scarce, farmers couldn’t get decent prices for crops, and voters were just angry. Before the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, politicians were not that different from today; they just used different tools. William Henry Harrison’s backers focused on how best to sell their candidate, how to disparage his opponent, and how to appeal to the newly enfranchised middle class. At the very beginning, they had to erase the Whig Party’s image as representing the rich. That was easy enough to do as they pictured “Old Tippecanoe” with a symbol of a log cabin–dwelling, hard cider–drinking soldier. Never mind that his heroic victory at Tippecanoe was actually a huge loss after a surprise attack or that Harrison and his vice presidential nominee, John Tyler, were both born and raised in considerable comfort on plantations. The “firsts” of this campaign illustrate just how creative they were: it was the first to merchandise a candidate; the first to focus on an image; the first to hold huge public rallies; the first nomination decided in a smoke-filled room; and the first candidate to actually campaign. Former Wall Street Journal reporter and editor Shafer (When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms: Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn's Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890, 2011, etc.) catches all the new twists of the campaign, from women joining in rallies to Horace Greeley’s newly formed newspaper. The author’s writing skills are unassailable, although we could do with fewer parade descriptions. The Democratic Review’s comment says it all: “The Whig campaign was indeed a national insult to the intelligence of the American people…a political phenomenon, so unexpected, so astonishing that Democrats would be wrong to blame the loss simply on the ‘vulgar herd.’ ”

Shafer makes his readers feel that we are not alone—not the first and, sadly, not the last to be bamboozled.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61373-540-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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