The author’s unrestrained advocacy can be annoying, but he provides a strong portrait of an undervalued general.

MASTER OF WAR

THE LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS

Revisionist biography of the Union general who overcame long odds to win the war in the West.

Bobrick (The Fated Sky: Astrology in History, 2005, etc.) makes his views clear from the outset, arguing that Grant and Sherman, both of whom outlived George Thomas (1816–70), promoted their own reputations at his expense. A Virginian by birth, Thomas excelled at West Point, where Sherman was his roommate. His career after graduation was typical of his generation of officers: the Seminole War, the Mexican War and a stint as instructor at West Point, where he befriended Lee. In 1855, he was appointed to the 2nd Cavalry, an elite regiment created by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis that included among its officers 16 future generals, 11 for the Confederacy. When the Civil War came, Thomas remained with the Union despite his Southern origin and connections. Sent to Kentucky to train recruits, he won a significant battle at Mill Springs in early 1862 and was a key figure in the Union victory at Stones River later that year. His real fame came toward the war’s end, when he was instrumental in the battles of Chattanooga, Chickamaugua, Atlanta and his greatest triumph, Nashville, where he essentially destroyed the Confederate army in the West. While giving a clear account of all these events, Bobrick piles up evidence that Grant, Sherman and even Lincoln not only failed to recognize Thomas’s brilliance, but consistently acted to prevent his rise. He also argues that Sherman and Grant were bunglers, the one a megalomaniac, the other an alcoholic butcher who battered his opponents into surrender at the cost of his own men’s lives. After the war, Thomas’s natural modesty kept him from aggrandizing or profiting from his reputation. He served honorably in Reconstruction duty and showed no political ambition, though some urged him to run against Grant for president. Bobrick attributes his death from a stroke to anger provoked by a letter denigrating his generalship, possibly written at Grant’s instigation.

The author’s unrestrained advocacy can be annoying, but he provides a strong portrait of an undervalued general.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9025-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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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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