An insightful analysis of the rise and reign of Reagan; a somewhat less successful explication of the meaning of Reaganism...

THE AGE OF REAGAN

A HISTORY, 1974-2008

A distinguished center-left historian surveys U.S. politics over the past 35 years and pronounces Ronald Reagan, like it or not, the era’s dominant figure.

In the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, the McGovernite Congress elected in 1974 appeared to restore liberalism to its accustomed place as the dominant force in American politics. In fact, the victory disguised years of Democratic Party confusion and intellectual decay. This, plus a growing network of conservative think tanks, institutes and media voices, and the feckless Ford and Carter presidencies, prepared the ground for conservatives to take over the Republican Party and then the country. The movement to shrink government, reduce taxes, reverse the country’s moral decline, keep the military strong and fight communism found its perfect champion in the smiling personage of Reagan, who so transformed the terms of political debate that no successor has been able to conduct business without accounting for him. Wilentz (History/Princeton Univ.; Andrew Jackson, 2006, etc.) correctly calls for Reagan to be treated seriously by professional historians. He’s wrong, though, to think his own political proclivities have not colored the analysis here. The author pays only grudging respect to Reaganism, tellingly defining it as a “distinctive blend of dogma, pragmatism, and, above all, mythology.” He attributes Reagan’s signal achievement—ending the Cold War without bloodshed—as much to Gorbachev. He treats the rest of the Reagan legacy—gutted regulatory agencies, regressive tax policies, politicized judiciary, polarized citizenry—as a set of indisputable, unfortunate facts that the Clinton interregnum barely disrupted. Wilentz declines to predict whether Bush II will revise and extend conservatism’s reach or spark a liberal resurgence. Still, the very fact that a historian of Wilentz’s credentials and liberal disposition willingly deals seriously and at such length with Reagan means, in a Nixon-to-China sense, attention must be paid.

An insightful analysis of the rise and reign of Reagan; a somewhat less successful explication of the meaning of Reaganism and its implications.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-074480-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...

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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