Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. will be read because he is Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. That much is assured. But beyond the name and the campus fame, there is the fact that this is a perfectly satisfactory book on a rather — by now — shopworn subject. Nothing here, understand, to set you on your political ear, but rather what we have come to expect from Professor Schlesinger: a vivid historical review of the development — no, alarming accretion — of presidential power. Of course George Reedy (and Schlesinger acknowledges the debt) has deftly explored this trend (viz. Twilight of the Presidency, 1970; and The Presidency in Flux, KR, p. 549) — Schlesinger even uses Reedy's operative adjective "monarchical" — and Emmet John Hughes in his recent The Living Presidency (KR, p. 667) more cautiously but very ably addressed the same issue, arguing that we must resist the present impulse — generated by the Nixonomical horrors of Watergate — for "reforming zeal" and live with the "abiding paradoxes" of the modern office. Schlesinger's contribution is his talent for organizing history — he conducts his inquiry with the surehandedness of a professional so at home with his material that we sometimes forget that a scholar is at work unscrambling the contradictory past. We saw it — this genius for putting together the lineaments of the historical record — in the Roosevelt volumes and here he is just as good. The overriding theme here concerns the presidency in the democratic system: can we permit the chief executive unlimited authority in the area of foreign affairs and war-making and remain a free nation, or must we sacrifice efficiency and speed of decision-making by sharing the power around, as the Constitution mandates? Schlesinger wants a "constitutional" presidency — a rather wobbly solution in these days of constitutional confrontation at the highest level. But withal, Schlesinger has seemingly effortlessly traced the rise of the autocratic White House and that is sufficient.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 1973

ISBN: 0618420010

Page Count: 629

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1973

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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