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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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