Effectively captures the rhythm and the zeitgeist of a special time and place not so long ago.



ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award–winning music critic Orgill celebrates the Depression’s big-band soundtrack.

Bracketing her narrative with the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling match in the summer of 1936 and the Brown Bomber’s triumph over the Nazi boxer in their memorable rematch just two years later, Orgill chronicles the rise of the great swing orchestras. Playing against Count Basie was Chick Webb. Dueling bands found the groove and delighted the paying customers. Featured were female singers Billie Holiday, sporting a gardenia in her hair, and Ella Fitzgerald, in a decorous long gown. Jamming with the cool cats were the likes of Buck Clayton, Lester Young and Gene Krupa. Benny Goodman broke the color line by hiring black musicians. Nonmusical backup was provided by Adam Clayton Powell Sr. and Jr., Jacob Lawrence and Langston Hughes—all handsome dudes with good-looking, pencil-thin mustaches. Eleanor was traipsing around, writing about her day, and Franklin was broadcasting his fireside chats. Amelia Earhart flew off to who knows where. On the air: The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Fibber McGee and Jack Benny. The tone of this history is decidedly sepia, the main action definitely uptown: showtime at the Apollo and stompin’ at the Savoy. With just a bit of vamping to maintain the beat, Orgill’s prose, reminiscent of Down Beat or Metronome, swings with period vernacular. Not content to help readers remember, her evocation of those past days bids us to listen.

Effectively captures the rhythm and the zeitgeist of a special time and place not so long ago.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-089750-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Smithsonian/Collins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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