ALWAYS IN PURSUIT

FRESH AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, 1995-1997

A self-impressed, capriciously hit-and-miss collection of New York Daily News columns and longer thought pieces by jazz guru and social/cultural critic Crouch (The All-American Skin Game, 1995, etc.). Crouch is at his poetic best conjuring jazzmen like Ellington, Parker, and Monk. Here he is elegant and confident, a masterful guide to the artistry of blues and swing. He excels too, in his nuanced look at the novels of Albert Murray, where he probes the crucible of race and the ``bass clef of American life'' in the South. He is equally commanding on Christopher Darden, whom he lambastes for incompetence and for playing an exculpatory race card of his own. However, when Crouch is glib, most often in his Daily News riffs, he bludgeons the obvious with slangy diatribes, offers muddled, vague analyses, and takes flimsy swipes at pet peeves such as ``liberal racism'' and ``Afrocentric types.'' His rants tweak with moot barbs the common wisdom on pedophiles (a menace), Michael Jackson (a fascist idol), army sex (get over it), Hiroshima (a necessary evil), foreign policy (``evangelical humanism''), and Princess Di (why the fuss?). He's at his worst as literato, where everything is Melvillian, and his tendency to condescend often obscures his better insights—as when he feels the sudden need to define ``onomatopoeia'' or when he dubs Faulkner an ``aesthetic scrapper.'' Such errant pedantry has none of the breezy erudition of an Irving Howe, and if anything, underscores Crouch's seeming discomfort with the material. Throughout, his attempts to jumble and reinvent meaning and word order often fail, either because they ring hollow when he has nothing clever to say, or because they fall flat when he misses the beat. Crouch sustains whole stretches of fine, sometimes expert material, but overall this ``intellectual medley'' is wildly erratic, and its best verses rarely transcend its verbiage.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40153-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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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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