Readers who believe dreams are predictive will likely enjoy this book, which is really only saved by the author’s talent as...

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LINCOLN DREAMT HE DIED

THE MIDNIGHT VISIONS OF REMARKABLE AMERICANS FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO FREUD

An acclaimed historian dives headlong into the dreams of some iconic Americans.

Had Burstein (History/Louisiana State Univ.; Madison and Jefferson, 2010) written a book about a small selection of famous people and their documented dreams, it would have been much more interesting than this book. The author provides an occasionally intriguing but mostly tedious history of how dreams were interpreted throughout the 19th century in the United States and the changes in the importance they were afforded. Often, dreams were discounted as just superstition or a result of indigestion. They reconciled the past with the present and anticipated the future, usually reflecting the journey of life. Thomas Jefferson thought of dreams as fallacious, inconsequential thoughts. Still, there were those who studied and lectured on dreams—e.g., Jefferson’s friend Dr. Benjamin Rush, though he thought of them as a low grade of delirium. There were also those who collected dreams, notably Ichabod Cook, who interviewed countless people. Many of his acquaintances came to him often with their dreams. Does knowing someone will listen increase the animation in one’s dreams? The evolution of dream importance and interpretation may be an interesting topic for many readers, but the narrative here is too scattershot. Other significant figures profiled by Burstein include the titular Lincoln, John Adams, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Thomas De Quincey and Louisa May Alcott.

Readers who believe dreams are predictive will likely enjoy this book, which is really only saved by the author’s talent as a writer. Burstein should drop the dream interpreting and stick to the history of our forefathers.

Pub Date: May 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-137-27827-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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