An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study.



Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning historian Dower (Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, 1999, etc.) draws astute ironies between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in terms of the overweening arrogance of military superpowers.

The author moves back and forth between these two definitive eras in history, providing a brilliant examination of the willful self-delusion and selective reasoning involved in the highest levels of decision making—from Japan’s spectacularly ill-advised bombing of Pearl Harbor to the Bush Administration’s bundling of “weapons of mass destruction” and Osama bin Laden as justification for invasion of Iraq. Dower is intensely interested in the language of war, specifically the “code” words that prime the propaganda pump—e.g., “infamy,” as used to ignite public opinion against the enemy by both presidents Roosevelt and Bush; “ground zero,” evoked after the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and then after 9/11, underscoring in both incidences the terrible momentum of modern weaponry and the deliberate targeting of noncombatants; and “occupying power,” a term that morphed from carrying a benevolent connotation in postwar Japan to the malevolent quagmire that ensued in Iraq. The author traces the “groupthink” mentality through the faulty, blinkered rationale by the Japanese warlords as well as the Islamists and the Americans. Most presciently, Dower looks at America’s creation of what the late Benazir Bhutto called a “Frankenstein’s monster” in the Middle East—the sanctimonious preaching of democracy and justice on one hand, and the practice of supporting tyrannical regimes and military intervention on the other. The myth of American innocence and victimization (“Pearl Harbor,” “9/11”) is shattered by the baleful effects of terror bombing, torture (Abu Ghraib) and racism—what Dower calls a “profound failure of imagination” in thinking that the “little yellow men” and the “little Muslim sons-of-bitches” could execute such ingenious attacks.

An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06150-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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



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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