Excellent social history, bracketing David Talbot’s Season of the Witch (2012) as an indispensable account of a time of...




Searching account of 1960s Southern California, when the wistful innocence of the Beach Boys died alongside the victims of Charles Manson.

It makes sense that the first figure really to take form in McKeen’s (Chair, Journalism/Boston Univ.; Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West, 2011, etc.) latest book is Murry Wilson, the psychologically tortured, reflexively violent father of Beach Boys Carl, Dennis, and Brian—in fact, the latter was so relentlessly damaged by the shock of a raging parent that, more than half a century later, he is not quite at home in this world. “The boys knew they could stem the brutality with music,” writes McKeen, and so they sang—but also drank, drugged, and did all they could to escape. It was an accident of history that Dennis’ path crossed that of would-be songwriter Charles Manson, whose creepy, ultimately murderous family would invade Dennis’ life and home before committing their infamous acts. In between, McKeen recounts the rise and fall of LA pop-culture icons such as the Byrds, a band born in all sorts of conflict and personality clash even as it projected a flower-power cool: “They wanted to be rock ’n’ roll stars, but they couldn’t decide what would make the band distinctive.” The “star-making machinery,” a line of Joni Mitchell’s that McKeen cheerfully echoes, took in all kinds of disparate characters, from the lost wild child Gram Parsons to the craggy Svengali Kim Fowley. As the author notes, that machinery had no problem with the waiflike Michelle Phillips straddling a couple of dudes in a bathtub on an album cover but recalled it to sticker over the edge of a toilet that had strayed into the picture. McKeen’s book ends near where it begins, with the haunted Wilson family caught up in the terrible vortex of the post-Manson ’70s, when hippies were now objects of fear and bedrooms and barrooms were the sanctuaries of choice.

Excellent social history, bracketing David Talbot’s Season of the Witch (2012) as an indispensable account of a time of beauty and terror.

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61373-491-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...


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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