An authoritative but dull chronicle of a colorful industry that leaches out most of the interesting parts of one of the...




A prominent British historian maps out the tricky, messy, world-changing history of the gas-powered automobile.

In this straightforward history of cars, Parissien (Interiors: The Home Since 1700, 2008, etc.) begins by offering a concise origin story of the birth of the modern car and then launches into the oft-told tales of the slick behemoths who brought the product to the mainstream. “The men who were responsible for the creation and development of the global car industry were, for the most part, enthusiastic experts or fast-talking salesmen—or, like Henry Ford, a bit of both,” writes the author. “Many of the first auto pioneers were larger-than-life characters.” In addition to Ford, Parissien looks at the men who are mostly known as brand names today, including the rakish Louis Chevrolet, the brilliant engineers Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, and the French pioneer Armand Peugeot. Focusing on the characters involved in this great drama would have led to more inspired storytelling, but the historian in the author is far too ingrained. He pulls the focus way back to give an undemanding accounting of the industry’s peaks and valleys and the resulting effects on the social structures of America, Europe and Asia. There are a few entertaining moments—Parissien clearly understands the symbolism of the car as sex symbol—and there are nods to the cults of Volkswagen’s Beetle and the Mini Cooper, as well as well-known iconography like Steve McQueen’s Shelby Mustang in Bullitt, James Bond’s Aston Martin, and the DeLorean DMC-12 and its prominence in the Back to the Future movies. However, the step-by-step narrative, pulled almost entirely from secondary sources, is a grind.

An authoritative but dull chronicle of a colorful industry that leaches out most of the interesting parts of one of the world’s great pastimes.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04063-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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