Mixing both real events and a few moments of speculation, a fine account of a climacteric year.

1917

LENIN, WILSON, AND THE BIRTH OF THE NEW WORLD DISORDER

Dual biography of two men who stand in this account as avatars of worldwide change in a critical historical moment.

Woodrow Wilson and Vladimir Lenin are not, on the face, a natural pairing in the same way that the murderous dictators Hitler and Stalin are. Then again, Hudson Institute senior fellow Herman (Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior, 2016, etc.) did put Gandhi and Churchill together in a study of the decline of the British Empire, and putting Wilson and Lenin together does help to show how the foreign policy of the nascent superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, would have as their overarching goal not “to protect their own national interests as narrowly understood, as almost all nations understood foreign policy before 1917, but to make others see the world as they did.” For Wilson, this was a longtime insistence on a Pax Americana, formulated well before World War I, and one of the newsworthy aspects of Herman’s readable, engaging book is that Lenin once approached the U.S. with “a bizarre offer”: since, for obvious reasons, Germany could no longer be Russia’s chief industrial partner, as it had been before the war, then why not America? In exchange for help modernizing Russia, then, the U.S. would have had oil, mineral resources, and fur. “For a few tantalizing days…the world rocked on its hinges at the prospect of a future U.S.–Russian consortium dominating the postwar world,” writes Herman—but Wilson declined. Another great what-if: Germany declined the offer to stop fighting with status quo, meaning it could keep conquests and colonies in exchange for peace. In either instance, the world today would be much different from what it turned out to be, which, rather than Wilson’s much-longed-for peace, was a century of endless conflict.

Mixing both real events and a few moments of speculation, a fine account of a climacteric year.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-257088-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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