ROBERT KENNEDY AND HIS TIMES

In the elegiac spirit of A Thousand Days—and with access to the family papers—Schlesinger has mounted a massive attack on the Robert Kennedy conundrum (shy/aggressive, compassionate/ruthless) and, no less, on the Kennedy brothers' detractors. The themes, the interpretations, the stories are not new; but never have they been so assidously nailed down. RFK is described as an "overachiever" who tenaciously overcame his childhood handicaps to become a scrappy youth and, as manager of JFK's 1952 senatorial campaign, his father's fighting son. "In part it was an [Irish] imposture," Schlesinger writes. "The gentle self was never extinguished." Later exposure to human suffering strengthened the repressed "instinct of sympathy" and gave it "social direction." But it was not until his father's incapacitation and his brother's death that "the qualities he had so long subordinated in the interest of others. . . could rise freely to the surface. He could be himself at last." A reductive analysis, one may decide, given the complexity of the man who emerges in these 850 crowded pages which—if they accomplished nothing else—would reaffirm RFK's salient role as a doer. And indeed it is when Kennedy failed to act (e.g., to block the Martin Luther King wiretaps) or over-reacted (e.g., in pursuing Jimmy Hoffa, countering the steel price rise, supporting counterinsurgency in South Vietnam) that Schlesinger's defense is least convincing. (That the credo "If there was a problem, there had to be a solution" exacts a cost, he does not recognize.) But there is sufficient here to occupy a battery of historians, some of it openly anti-revisionist (e.g., a broad defense of JFK's handling of the Cuban missile crisis), some of it startling (RFK ostensibly broke with LBJ after the latter' spoke of JFK's death as "divine retribution" for the Trujillo and Diem assassinations), some of it the scouring of old wounds (William Manchester, Gore Vidal), and much of it—especially apropos of RFK's extra-Justice Department activities—a considerable amplification of the record. Sentimental, rhetorical, partisan—and indispensable.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 1978

ISBN: 0618219285

Page Count: 1092

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978

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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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