Despite its flaws, a lively and enjoyable collection.




Essays on historic and ever-changing American locations, celebrating the career of an innovative Oxford University Press editor, Sheldon Meyer.

The festschrift, an anthology compiled in honor of a particular scholar, is an awkward format, and despite the conscientious efforts of Leuchtenburg (History/Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; The Supreme Court in the Age of Roosevelt, 1995, etc.), this assortment shows some of the predictable problems of the genre. Although Leuchtenburg confides that some authors found the personal essays challenging after decades of rigorous scholarly objectivity, others apparently had no trouble indulging in evidently self-centered or frankly self-indulgent writing, rambling on about their careers or their reminiscences of Meyer in pieces resembling the transcripts of speeches at a retirement party. The volume also includes a few of those wistful first-person meditations in which the author returns to his boyhood home after many decades and finds that it has changed in the interim, inspiring the usual reflections on transience and memory. A gratifying number of pieces, however, transcend the unpromising format to offer substantial information and fresh insights into the history implicit in the American landscape. In “Greensboro, North Carolina: A Window on Race in the American South,” William H. Chafe provides context for the famous 1960 Woolworth’s sit-in. “Illinois’s Old State Capitol: A Tale of Two Speeches,” by Robert Johannsen, brings the Douglas-Lincoln campaign of 1860 to life. Donald Worster makes a powerful case in “The Grand Canyon” for the inclusion of geography and ecology in the study of human history. “A Fan’s Homage to Fenway (Or, Why We Love It When They Always Break Our Hearts),” by John Demos, and “The Polo Grounds,” by Jules Tygiel, are zestful tributes to both baseball and place. The finest essay here, Kenneth T. Jackson’s “Memphis, Tennessee: The Rise and Fall of Main Street,” presents a stirring defense of urbanism and a gentle, hilarious tribute to the pleasures the city offered a teenager in the 1950s.

Despite its flaws, a lively and enjoyable collection.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-19-513026-X

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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