Though written as if in a first-thought, best-thought reverie, there’s useful wheat among the chaff.

ASSASSIN OF YOUTH

A KALEIDOSCOPIC HISTORY OF HARRY J. ANSLINGER’S WAR ON DRUGS

This ain’t your grandpa’s reefer madness but instead a swirling, energetic, decidedly offbeat history of a man and a time history has largely forgotten, and not for any lack of effort of his own.

In the 1920s, Harry Anslinger (1892-1975) came out of the railyards and worked his way into the position of the nation’s first drug czar, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. In that role, he hounded the Italians, the blacks, the Reds, the Hispanics, and just about everyone who could be implicated in a war on drugs that, Chasin (Literary Studies/Lang Coll., The New School; Brief: A Novel, 2013, etc.) remonstrates, has been a costly failure ever since. The author styles her approach as “kaleidoscopic,” which has nicely psychedelic reverberations but offers no end of possibilities for preciousness, much of which she seizes—e.g., “what if we accept that all vision is distorted one way or another, and insist not on plain correction but on rich distortions?” It’s Derrida all over again and several decades behind the times. The rhetorical effect is sometimes playful, sometimes cloying: “Over there, over there, in The Hague, Harry had put on ideological weight”; “Or what’s a roundhouse for? Every track is ambidextrous”; “With a nod to the blurring of genres that characterizes the work of the narcotics agent, the Saturday Evening Post sings the praises of this special agent.” Blurring of genres? Ambidextrous? Postmodern cuteness aside, Chasin delivers an often interesting portrait of both G-men and G-war, both of which operated in the shadow of the attention-getting J. Edgar Hoover in Anslinger’s own time—and the second of which has lasted into our own time, as, with a pointed nod to the recent case of Sandra Bland, Chasin decries.

Though written as if in a first-thought, best-thought reverie, there’s useful wheat among the chaff.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-226-27697-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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