Full of schadenfreude and speculation—and solid, timely history too.

THE BIG RICH

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREATEST TEXAS OIL FORTUNES

An “epitaph,” as Texas expat and Vanity Fair special correspondent Burrough (Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 2004, etc.) calls it, for a storied, moneyed time that defines the Lone Star State’s self-image.

No matter how the fortune was made, the pattern is the same: The first hardscrabble generation fights, thieves and kills to get rich; the second becomes respectable, makes lots more money and gives money away; the third generation drinks, snorts and whores its way to the poorhouse. Thus, with some tailoring, the course of Burrough’s “big rich” families: the Hunts, Richardsons, Cullens and Murchisons, who came out of the West Texas dust or the South Texas swamps to make astounding fortunes, turn Dallas into a prairie paradise and build mansions that you could lose a herd of cows in. The first generation, writes Burrough, was “the original Beverly Hillbillies, counting their millions around the cement pond as they ogled themselves on the corner of Time.” But they were no simpletons. H.L. Hunt made much of his money not in oil but in real estate. “He was a strange man,” writes Burrough, “a loner who lived deep inside his own peculiar mind,” and who was convinced that he had superhuman qualities. He also had a deep, almost innate understanding of how markets and politics work, and he wielded tremendous power after earning a fortune in a time of severe economic depression precisely because other oil operators did not spend money exploring. Hunt did, living a few secret lives on the side, only to see his fortune dwindle in the hands of his heirs and eventually collapse in the oil-eating recession of 1979. Others of Burrough’s “big four” (including the Bass family, tied in with the Richardsons, last heard from funding research into space colonies) arced along similar rise-and-decline-and-fall paths—but not, as he writes, before they helped install the likes of George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Phil Gramm and other oil-friendly politicos into office.

Full of schadenfreude and speculation—and solid, timely history too.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-199-8

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2008

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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