PARIS IN THE FIFTIES

Strong reporting and storytelling skills combine to make this remembrance of Paris past a fine read. A Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist, Karnow (Vietnam, A History, 1983, etc.) apprenticed as a writer in postwar Paris, working his way up through the local bureau of Henry Luce's magazine empire. His long dispatches were generally filed away or, if published, cut drastically. But Karnow kept his carbon copies; here he distills that 1,000 pages of reportage into a memoir that artfully blends carefully detailed immediacy with considered personal reflection. The first few chapters, in which Karnow describes struggling as a GI Bill student in Paris and his subsequent initiation into the character-filled milieu of the Paris-based foreign press, seem somewhat insubstantial; but they are really only the set-up for the series of incisive reports that follow. Once past the requisite recounting of encounters with celebrities (Audrey Hepburn dazzles, Ernest Hemingway disappoints), Karnow uncorks a string of impressively realized chapters devoted to a wide variety of topics. They include le monde (a.k.a. the world of Parisian fashionables) and also the demimonde of striptease artists, prostitutes, and criminals; the intellectual circles of ``the mandarins,'' and also the French passion for car racing; the gastronomic divinations of the gourmand Curnonsky, Christian Dior's reign over the fashion world, and the strange career of Jules-Henri Desfourneaux, known as Monsieur de Paris, the city's guillotine operator. All the while, Karnow travels much further into French cultural history than his title might suggest. He never fails to provide historical context; one of his best passages retraces Ho Chi Minh's sojourn in Paris in the late 'teens and early twenties, long before he bedeviled France as leader of the Vietminh. Even the most jaded Francophile will find much stimulation here—indeed, so will any fan of punchy prose and intelligent observation and reflection.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8129-2781-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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