Light, entertaining and informative.

WHAT JEFFERSON READ, IKE WATCHED, AND OBAMA TWEETED

200 YEARS OF POPULAR CULTURE IN THE WHITE HOUSE

From reading Cicero to watching I Love Lucy, a history of American presidents’ interactions with popular culture.

Can a president show that he has the gravitas to govern the nation and still reveal that he knows who Snooki is? The question animates this fresh view of presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama and their efforts to find the right distance for the leader of a republic to keep between himself and the people. Against the rise of American popular culture over the past 200 years, Hudson Institute senior fellow Troy (Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians?, 2002) shows how presidents’ cultural pursuits have shaped them and the nation. The pursuits are many: Jefferson read the classics and philosophical works (“From candlelight to early bedtime I read”), as did John Adams, in an era when Common Sense sold as briskly as Peyton Place; Andrew Jackson thrilled audiences on his visits to the theater; Franklin Roosevelt mastered the radio; and Reagan made expert use of TV, which he also enjoyed viewing for consolation. While Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln worked hard to balance book smarts and popular appeal, presidents had other cultural distractions to deal with in ensuing years, which brought the Montgomery Ward catalog, the phonograph, radio, TV (Clinton was a “savvy manipulator,” George W. Bush rarely watched), and the Internet. Troy shows how these leaders used and projected their own images through emerging media, from Nixon sizing up the competition on TV to Obama’s preference for dark and edgy TV shows like The Wire. He wonders how the U.S. will continue to produce good leaders in a culture of the outrageous and the vulgar.

Light, entertaining and informative.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62157-039-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Regnery History

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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