A worthy addition to the literature on both Franklin and the Revolutionary War.

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THE MAKING OF A PATRIOT

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AT THE COCKPIT

The second in Oxford’s new Critical Historical Encounters series, covering formative events in American History—this time with a focus on a Benjamin Franklin many readers may not have encountered before.

In January 1774, Franklin stood up to the vitriol directed at him by the King’s Privy Council in the Cockpit, a former cockfighting room in Whitehall Palace. At this juncture war was inevitable. Incendiary letters sent 10 years earlier by Massachusetts Gov. Thomas Hutchinson and Lt. Gov. Andrew Oliver fell into Franklin’s hands, and he sent them to friends in Massachusetts who published them. Incensed, the Assembly of the Bay Colony instructed Franklin, their agent, to request their removal from office. Franklin knew very well that the request would be denied and thought that would be the end of it. The Boston Tea Party proved to be the tipping point. Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn, standing as an agent for the Council, delivered the verbal assault. Was Franklin merely a scapegoat, or was he truly an “incendiary” bent on poisoning the relationship between England and her colonies? Skemp (American History/Univ. of Mississippi; First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence, 2009, etc.) questions Franklin’s innocence in the matter of the letters and whether, as he claimed, he was the only one who could serve as an effective liaison between the British and the colonies. The author also questions his motives, invoking his many commercial enterprises and his laidback diplomacy. Superfluous information on those present at the Cockpit and the collapse of the relationship between Franklin and his son don’t detract from Skemp’s depth of knowledge on the man and the period.

A worthy addition to the literature on both Franklin and the Revolutionary War.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-19-538657-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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