A happy marriage of professional scholarship and childlike enthusiasm.

CAHOKIA

ANCIENT AMERICA’S GREAT CITY ON THE MISSISSIPPI

The latest entry in the Penguin Library of American Indian History traces the history and evolving theories about the large city of Cahokia, which sprang up near the current St. Louis, Mo., around 1050 CE.

Largely avoiding academic jargon, Pauketat (Anthropology/Univ. of Illinois; Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions, 2007, etc.) sketches the absorbing story of these people whose enormous earthen structures were for decades assailed by farmers’ plows, urban sprawl, the highway system and ignorant neglect. The “3200 acres of great pyramids, spacious plazas, thatched-roof temples, houses, astronomical observatories, and planned neighborhoods” now compose Cahokia Mounds State Park. Scholars estimate that more than 10,000 people once lived in Cahokia (many thousands more were in outlying settlements), a city that emerged so suddenly that Pauketat uses the term “big bang” to describe its advent. He explores various theories for its creation—the timely appearance of a supernova in 1054 might have been a significant factor—and describes how the influential Cahokian culture spread throughout North America. The author is careful to credit his scholarly ancestors in Cahokian studies, including Preston Holder, Melvin Fowler and Warren Wittry. Pauketat describes the enormous cultural significance of the game of chunkey (spears thrown at rolling stone balls), then zeroes in on some key earthen mounds and the bounties they’ve yielded—especially Mound 72, where multiple human burials were unearthed, including some personages so prominent that they became invaluable in understanding Cahokian politics and theology. Archaeologists also discovered a pit containing evidence of vast feasts, evidence buried so deeply that the remains still reeked. Among the most engaging late-emerging theories: the significance of women along the full range of the cultural spectrum—from human sacrificial offering to day-laborer to goddess.

A happy marriage of professional scholarship and childlike enthusiasm.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02090-4

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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