A rich, provocative work that merits attention during the commemorative season to come. (See Brian Hall’s I Should Be...

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EXPLORING LEWIS AND CLARK

REFLECTIONS ON MEN AND WILDERNESS

In chapters that stand alone as essays and follow themes not found in more sober works of history (“Dreams,” “Writing First,” “Why Snakes?,” etc.), Slaughter (History/Notre Dame) examines questions that some celebrants of the Lewis and Clark bicentenary may not want to see raised.

Who, for instance, was the woman Meriwether Lewis and William Clark called Sacagawea? Would she have answered to that name? Did she die in 1812, as most histories tell us? On the second and third questions, Slaughter (The Natures of John and William Bartram, 1996, etc.) shows why “no” is the best answer; on the first, he tells us much, concluding that Americans have mythologized Porivo (a name she would have answered to) “by denying her enslavement, her life, and her voice . . . ignor[ing] the violence done to her and upon which our nation is based.” Another slave, Clark’s servant York, receives similarly close and rueful consideration. The author gives much thought to the explorers’ obsession with the issue of whether they were the first white men, even the first Americans, to have followed the course of the Missouri and Columbia rivers to the Pacific, again showing that “no” is the best answer, as Lewis and Clark knew. Traversing the North American continent 200 years ago, they were haunted by the sense that they were always a running a league or a week behind where they should have been. Sensibly taking the point of view of the native people the explorers encountered along the way, Slaughter asks, “How could you be late for a mountain?” Even as he gainsays myth and points to some of their shortcomings, however, he honors Lewis and Clark for their bravery. There’s no needless demolition of hard-won reputation here, and their self-doubt acquires a certain poignancy in Slaughter’s hands. Pensive and lyrical, this is not just about the famous expedition, but also “about naming, discovery, being an explorer, finding yourself, and losing your way.”

A rich, provocative work that merits attention during the commemorative season to come. (See Brian Hall’s I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, p. 1494, for an expertly drawn fictional recreation of the Lewis and Clark expedition.)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-40078-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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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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