Many of these points were made with greater intellectual rigor in William Bernstein’s Masters of the Word (2013), and...

WRITING ON THE WALL

SOCIAL MEDIA—THE FIRST 2,000 YEARS

The technologies are different, but the habit of sharing information horizontally and in two directions is a lot older than the Internet, argues the Economist’s digital editor.

Indeed, writes Standage (An Edible History of Humanity, 2009, etc.), it’s the mass media of the 19th and 20th centuries that are the anomalies. Humans are innately social animals, “built to form networks with others and to exchange information with them.” Once writing was invented and literacy became relatively widespread in ancient Rome, news could be shared outside a small, physically proximate group, and “the stage was set for the emergence of the first social-media ecosystem.” Educated Romans spread news (and gossip) by letters, which they expected to be copied and passed on, similar to the way emails are forwarded and tweets are retweeted today. Standage draws similar parallels between the Internet and the printed pamphlets that spread the Protestant revolution in the 16th century and the American and French ones in the 18th. Among the many other, sometimes-specious historical precedents he cites are the coffee houses in which 17th-century Europeans gathered to exchange news and poetry circulated in manuscript among members of the Elizabethan elite. The author’s main point is well-taken: In the mid 19th century, steam printing presses made it possible to print newspapers much faster and sell them much more cheaply; they also made it much more expensive to set up and maintain a newspaper, which now involved a staff of paid professional journalists. Radio and TV expanded this trend of disseminating information from the top down, with particularly sinister results in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The creation of the World Wide Web allowed people to reclaim their traditional roles in both spreading news and commenting on it.

Many of these points were made with greater intellectual rigor in William Bernstein’s Masters of the Word (2013), and Standage’s habit of seeing a proto-Internet in every historical use of media eventually prompts fatigue and disbelief.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-283-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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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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