Essential for students of journalism, particularly local and long-form, and a pleasure for anyone who values lively prose.

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RANSOMING PAGAN BABIES

THE SELECTED WRITINGS OF WARREN HINCKLE

A much-needed, welcome gathering of work by the radical journalist and crusading editor.

A cross between Christopher Hitchens and Joseph Mitchell, with some of the personal habits of Hunter Thompson, Hinckle (1938-2016) cut a piratical figure around downtown San Francisco, eyepatch and all, never far from a shot and a pint. For all his dissolute ways, he was whip-smart, caught between embracing his Jesuitical education and rejecting its premises. The title of this anthology of writings begins on a Catholic note—the “pagan babies” in question are Chinese, the church, “authority without terror,” committed to baptizing them lest they go unsaved—that continues throughout, if with an unorthodox body of working-class saints to celebrate. One of the author’s heroes, for instance, is the deep-red labor activist Harry Bridges, who integrated the Bay Area’s maritime unions by going, “with the wisdom of the radical,” to black churches and asking workers not to cross picket lines, promising that blacks would be enrolled on the waterfront if they resisted the temptation to scab. Later, as editor of the muckraking leftist monthly Ramparts—well, sort of monthly, since it printed when the stars in Hinckle’s mind were in alignment—he spearheaded a stunningly comprehensive investigation of racial inequality in Oakland, where, if you are in the roughly half of the population below the poverty line, you “go to jail when you are told, only pass Go when you receive permission.” The volume editors, one a longtime Hinckle associate, capably work their way through an embarrassment of riches, giving plenty of room to his sketches of memorable characters such as Monty the Duck, Hydro Willy, and the Rev. Willis Egan (“he bought the drinks, which turned out to be a good thing as he drank like a Jesuit fish”) and his incisive studies of moments like the killing of Harvey Milk and the near-simultaneous—and, in his mind, connected—tragedy of Jonestown.

Essential for students of journalism, particularly local and long-form, and a pleasure for anyone who values lively prose.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59714-416-2

Page Count: 504

Publisher: Heyday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers...

GRANT

A massive biography of the Civil War general and president, who “was the single most important figure behind Reconstruction.”

Most Americans know the traditional story of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885): a modest but brutal general who pummeled Robert E. Lee into submission and then became a bad president. Historians changed their minds a generation ago, and acclaimed historian Chernow (Washington: A Life, 2010, etc.), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, goes along in this doorstop of a biography, which is admiring, intensely detailed, and rarely dull. A middling West Point graduate, Grant performed well during the Mexican War but resigned his commission, enduring seven years of failure before getting lucky. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was the only West Point graduate in the area, so local leaders gave him a command. Unlike other Union commanders, he was aggressive and unfazed by setbacks. His brilliant campaign at Vicksburg made him a national hero. Taking command of the Army of the Potomac, he forced Lee’s surrender, although it took a year. Easily elected in 1868, he was the only president who truly wanted Reconstruction to work. Despite achievements such as suppressing the Ku Klux Klan, he was fighting a losing battle. Historian Richard N. Current wrote, “by backing Radical Reconstruction as best he could, he made a greater effort to secure the constitutional rights of blacks than did any other President between Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.” Recounting the dreary scandals that soiled his administration, Chernow emphasizes that Grant was disastrously lacking in cynicism. Loyal to friends and susceptible to shady characters, he was an easy mark, and he was fleeced regularly throughout his life. In this sympathetic biography, the author continues the revival of Grant’s reputation.

At nearly 1,000 pages, Chernow delivers a deeply researched, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know biography, but few readers will regret the experience. For those seeking a shorter treatment, turn to Josiah Bunting’s Ulysses S. Grant (2004).

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-487-6

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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