A fitting memorial to the farmboy turned soldier and intellectual: a must for Civil War enthusiasts.

TESTAMENT

A SOLDIER’S STORY OF THE CIVIL WAR

The Civil War as seen by the author’s great-grandfather, an Illinois infantryman on the Union side.

Bobrick (Wide as the Waters, 2001, etc.) bases his account largely on 90 letters Benjamin “Webb” Baker (1841–1908) wrote home between August 1861, when he responded to Lincoln’s call for volunteers, and June 1864, when he joined Sherman’s march across Georgia. At the war’s onset, Webb was a 19-year-old farmboy, used to hard work and outdoor living. His company was sent to Missouri, where southern sympathizers threatened Union control of the state. He first saw action in the Union victory at Pea Ridge, the largest battle of the war west of the Mississippi. He was twice wounded. Then, after a period of patrolling the Missouri-Arkansas border, his company crossed the river and served in Kentucky and Mississippi before settling in Tennessee. A long series of aimless marches and idle days in camp nearly drove Baker to distraction, until they went east to fight for Chattanooga in the battles of Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain. He suffered another major wound, and worse yet, the death of his younger brother, who had enlisted several months after he did. Bobrick alternates between descriptions of the conflict as Baker experienced it and as it was fought in the country as a whole. The letters give a detailed view of war as seen by an ordinary soldier; readers can sense how Baker was sobered by battle and by the extensive reading he did while recovering from his wounds. After the war, he earned a doctorate in history and became a teacher and a minister. The last section reprints the original letters, some summarized by the transcriber who prepared a typescript after Baker’s death.

A fitting memorial to the farmboy turned soldier and intellectual: a must for Civil War enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-5091-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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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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