An invigorating plunge into the sexual, intellectual, and artistic ferment of the enclave that nurtured 20th-century artists...




Longtime Village Voice theater editor Wetzsteon (1932–1998) celebrates with wit, insight, and love the political radicals, poets, painters, and just plain eccentrics who lived and worked in Greenwich Village during the first half of the 20th century.

The roster of rebels who moved through the Village’s approximately four square miles in those years, alternately partying and charging the cultural and political barricades, includes names that are carved firmly in America’s artistic heritage and others that reverberate only among political activists. Socialists, Marxists, anarchists, and others fomenting political change held sway in the years preceding WWI, among them John Reed, Louise Bryant, Max Eastman, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Emma Goldman. They met to eat and drink and talk—always talk—in socialite Mabel Dodge’s salon on Fifth Avenue near Washington Square. Wetzsteon presents his history in lively chapters devoted to these and other idiosyncratic personalities, including Eugene O’Neill, Edna Millay, William Carlos Williams, Thomas Wolfe, Djuna Barnes, e.e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, Dawn Powell, Jackson Pollock, and lesser-knowns but perhaps no less important to the Village myth. One of the most evocative chapters concerns Joe Gould, a Harvard graduate (made semi-famous by Joseph Mitchell’s New Yorker profile) who spent his life on the streets of the Village, always in need of a bath and a meal, allegedly compiling An Oral History of Our Time. Villagers’ lives overlapped in unexpected ways, defining a “community obsessed with individualism, independence, self-expression, and self-fulfillment.” Sexual relationships were a core issue, Wetzsteon believes, because what drew people to the Village was the opportunity for sexual freedom. When the 1960s opened the doors to sexual liberation coast to coast, the Village, for the most part, lost its usefulness.

An invigorating plunge into the sexual, intellectual, and artistic ferment of the enclave that nurtured 20th-century artists and writers whose work and lives still resonate in the 21st.

Pub Date: June 6, 2002

ISBN: 0-684-86995-0

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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