IN LOVE WITH NIGHT

THE AMERICAN ROMANCE WITH ROBERT KENNEDY

A persuasive study both of the character of Robert Kennedy and of his persistent hold on the national imagination. “At some point,” Steel writes (Walter Lippmann and the American Century, 1980) “without ever quite intending it, American liberals and even many American conservatives fell in love with Robert Kennedy.” He became in memory a kind of alternative to the disruptive present: If Bobby had become president, “he would have quickly ended the Vietnam War, brought black and white Americans together, alleviated poverty and discrimination, and achieved a more just and humane society.” But would he? While covering the major elements in Kennedy’s life and career, Steel identifies the characteristics that made him such a unique figure on the political landscape of the 1960s. He was, Steel notes, a fervent crusader for whom ideas had real, perhaps tragic consequences. In the grim period following 1963, Bobby was haunted by the fear that his crusades against Fidel Castro and the Mafia may have played some part in his brother’s assassination. Steel is especially persuasive in depicting Bobby’s complex relationship with his brother Jack, a relationship composed, on Bobby’s side, of admiration, devotion, and frustration. One reason LBJ remained so committed to the war in Vietnam, argues Steel, was that Bobby, who was unwilling to accept a defeat there, would roundly criticize LBJ if he were to pull out. And he suggests that, although Bobby in his last years displayed an extraordinary charisma as a critic of the status quo, if he had gained the presidency “he would have had to shed his charisma as redeemer and become . . . what every president ultimately is: a power broker.” Without denying any of Kennedy’s gifts, Steel has produced a substantial rereading of his character, of the turbulent sixties, and of the process of political legend-making in this country. A major work on an American political icon.(16 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-80829-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

NIGHT

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

1776

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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