Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Original Zinn

Not so original, really, according to David Greenberg. In a review of a new bio of the radical historian (first name, Howard), Greenberg calls Zinn's most famous book, A People's History of the United State, "a pretty lousy piece of work." Here's Greenberg accounting for the book's unaccountable popularity (hint: Matt Damon's unbridled enthusiasm for the book certainly didn't hurt):
A People’s History caught the imagination of the public, or a portion of it, for several reasons. Foremost was its uncomplicated and ideologically attractive message, enlivened by Zinn’s palpable passion and customarily lucid prose. An easily drinkable blend of the radical history that was now ripe on the vine, the book gave readers the American experience as seen by the losers and the victims. Or as Zinn memorably put it: “the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish … the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America.” In casting himself in solidarity with grassroots movements of protest, Zinn found a winning formula: how could you not root for Zinn and his rag-tag cast of plucky underdogs against the slaveholders, robber barons, imperialists, and protectors of privilege?

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