A lively, contrasting study of hubris and humility.

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LAWRENCE IN ARABIA

WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST

A well-fleshed portrait of T.E. Lawrence (1888–1935) brought in burnished relief against other scoundrels in the Arabian narrative.

American novelist and journalist Anderson (Moonlight Hotel, 2007, etc.) is evidently taken with the story of the brash, contradictory, ultimately unknowable personality who managed to galvanize the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire “because no one was paying much attention.” The “Great Loot” brought out mostly the worst in those characters, portrayed with verve by Anderson, who were attracted to the lawless gain in the exotic Middle East. These included New England aristocrat William Yale, who embarked on a top-secret prospecting mission for Standard Oil in the Holy Land, and the German spy and Turkish adviser Curt Prüfer, among others. In contrast, Lawrence was profoundly moved by the Arab plight and what was increasingly viewed as Western manipulation and duplicity, revealed in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. Steeped in the tales of King Arthur’s court as a child, the product of secretive parents in hiding from his father’s divorce scandal, Lawrence was small, shy and exceptionally bright, with ferocious self-endurance and self-sufficiency, an ideal candidate as an Oxford student to latch on to David Hogarth’s archaeological dig at Carchemish in 1911. As mapper and “Syria hand” for British intelligence in Cairo with the outbreak of war, Lawrence learned the lay of the Ottoman Empire and its diverse peoples. Once he offered himself as the man on the ground to render logistical aid to the leader of the Arab Revolt, Emir Hussein, and his sons, Lawrence was in a unique position; he added to his elusiveness by adopting Arab dress. Anderson thoroughly explores the making of the Lawrence legend, from the effortless taking of Aqaba to “the fantasy of the ‘clean war’ of Arab warriors.”

A lively, contrasting study of hubris and humility.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-53292-1

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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