A trenchant deconstruction of much-ballyhooed revelations (in Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, by Anthony Summers, 1993) that longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was gay—plus an analysis of Hoover's policies toward sex and crime. Theoharis (History/Marquette Univ., The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition, not reviewed) scores Summers's ``mind-boggling,'' simplistic account of Hoover's ``compromised directorship,'' in which he allegedly suffered Mafia blackmail and pursued politicians' sexual peccadillos out of his own hypocrisy. If Summers is right, asks the author, why haven't former FBI agents or attorneys general come forward to corroborate such charges? Theoharis, who doubts that Hoover was gay, believes the ``wily and cautious'' bureaucrat would never have let himself be compromised; he also finds several weaknesses in the account of Summers's best source, Susan Rosenstiel (wife of a liquor magnate), who said she had seen Hoover in drag at gay orgies. Hoover, the author argues, exploited the ``moralistic concern about personal conduct'' that pervaded the country when he took office in the 1920s. He collected dirt on numerous politicians and public figures, gay and straight, but usually used such information cautiously, relying on Congress and the press rather than blackmail and direct publicity. Hoover seized on WW IIera concerns about fascism and communism to further build the FBI. This politically popular concentration on fighting subversives, Theoharis contends, damaged the FBI's capacity to fight organized crime: ``From 1936 Hoover for the most part abandoned law enforcement.'' Hoover survived, the author concludes, because his politics matched those of our political elite. Only after Hoover died in 1972 did the FBI turn to organized crime, needing to recapture public opinion after embarrassing revelations about its extralegal methods. Students of history and policy should pay heed.

Pub Date: March 10, 1995

ISBN: 1-56663-071-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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 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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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