An entertaining reminder that American hero worship, media hype, and fierce nationalism haven’t changed much in a century.

WAR FEVER

BOSTON, BASEBALL, AND AMERICA IN THE SHADOW OF THE GREAT WAR

A lively historical account of 1918 Boston, a city obsessed with baseball and defeating the Kaiser in Germany.

Roberts (History/Purdue Univ.) and Smith (History/Georgia Tech Univ.), co-authors of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X (2016), tell their story through the lives of two New Englanders—Charles Whittlesey, commander of the “lost battalion” in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive; and Karl Muck, the German conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—and a Baltimore boy playing for the local team: George Herman “Babe” Ruth. As the authors write, the three “became, in 1918, the most famous war hero, war villain, and war athlete. Nearly everything they did was interpreted through the lens of the war.” Whittlesey, an idealistic lawyer, enlisted in 1917. In 1918 in France, his battalion was surrounded. For five days, without food or water and running out of ammunition, they resisted German attacks and a request to surrender until relief arrived. Oppressed by his avalanche of fame, which continued after the war with demands for speeches, parades, and favors, he vanished during a cruise in 1921, probably a suicide. The authors stress that today’s anti-Muslim prejudice pales in comparison to the nationwide anti-German hysteria that victimized the internationally acclaimed Muck. Although unashamedly German, he was no spy, terrorist, propagandist, or anti-American demagogue, accusations that poured from newspapers, women’s clubs, patriotic organizations, and elected officials. Arrested in March 1918, he was interned in a Georgia camp for 18 months and then deported. That year, Babe Ruth was pitching for the Red Sox but was already nationally famous because of his slugging. At the time, baseball was in crisis, with teams crippled by enlistments and conscription and plummeting attendance. Concealing fears of bankruptcy behind fervent patriotism, owners proclaimed that baseball provided moral uplift to war-weary Americans and salvaged a shortened season and World Series that Boston, led by Ruth, won.

An entertaining reminder that American hero worship, media hype, and fierce nationalism haven’t changed much in a century.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7266-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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