From the rigidly stratified life in the 1920s and ’30s during J&L’s “despotic prime,” to the brief, postwar golden age,...

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PLAYING THROUGH THE WHISTLE

STEEL, FOOTBALL, AND AN AMERICAN TOWN

A senior Sports Illustrated writer tells a multigenerational story about Aliquippa, a Pennsylvania steel town, and its legendary high school football team.

Heavy industry and football share the same DNA, writes Price (Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America, 2009, etc.). Both feature a hierarchical management structure; both involve collective striving, with various skills merging to produce the desired result; both “depend on—even celebrate—the implicit trade of health for money” or celebrity. Since the early 1900s, when the J&L Steel Company designed and built the town, until today, as surely as the blast furnaces once reliably churned out pig iron, the Quips have won a succession of regional and state championships, producing an astonishing number of football stars, most notably Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Ty Law, and Darrelle Revis. Price thoroughly explores the football saga, focusing on four particularly successful coaches and their teams, but this is no mere sports story. The author produces an artful mix of history, economics, sociology, and athletics. He makes room for sketches of distinguished, nonsports native sons (composer Henry Mancini), a reform-minded governor’s wife, a J&L official who bossed the town, and Aliquippa’s first black mayor. As he travels through the decades, he packs the narrative with telling episodes: the presidential visits of John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, a landmark Supreme Court labor case slapping down J&L, the high school walkouts of the 1960s, protesting the lack of black cheerleaders. Price’s especially touching engravings of “promise squandered,” those chewed up and spit out by Aliquippa’s tough environment, contrast powerfully with the tales of football triumph.

From the rigidly stratified life in the 1920s and ’30s during J&L’s “despotic prime,” to the brief, postwar golden age, “a moment of civic equipoise,” to today’s “company town without a company,” where the combination of unemployment, drugs, and crime crushes hope, Price’s football story is really that of America’s Rust Belt in poignant miniature.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2564-4

Page Count: 462

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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 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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