The most complete and wide-ranging of recent biographies of Sherman, of interest to all students of the Civil War.

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THE SCOURGE OF WAR

THE LIFE OF WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN

A thoroughgoing biography of William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), the steely, intellectually gifted Civil War general.

Did Sherman really say “War is hell”? His son said that his father’s true statement, made to the mayor of a devastated Atlanta in 1864, was “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” Either way, Sherman knew whereof he spoke. Graduating from West Point near the top of his class academically but knocked down by demerits—“He dressed carelessly,” writes noted Civil War historian Reid, “saluted slovenly or not at all, and used his disregard of the rules as a means of winning laddish approbation from his peers”—Sherman entered the service as an artilleryman but was pushed into the commissary corps. There he learned to dig deep into every logistical consideration of how a war should be executed: what supplies were needed and where, how many wagons it would take to get them there, how many bullets would be fired, and so forth. That mastery served him well as an officer who suffered several depressing defeats during the Civil War, including a near disaster in the siege of Vicksburg. Nonetheless, he became one of Ulysses S. Grant’s favored officers, succeeding him after the war as chief general of the U.S. Army. Reid looks closely at Sherman’s analytical skills while taking issue with certain popular depictions of him. For example, Sherman has been accounted a heartlessly cruel avenger in Southern depictions of his March to the Sea, where in truth “the absence of violence…needs to be underlined,” at least as far as civilians were concerned. Reid also acquits his subject of the razing of South Carolina’s capital, which he holds was the result of an accidental fire that “overwhelmed Columbia’s small firefighting capacity.” Despite occasionally dry prose, the author’s capable blending of biographical facts with larger issues makes his study particularly valuable.

The most complete and wide-ranging of recent biographies of Sherman, of interest to all students of the Civil War.

Pub Date: June 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-539273-9

Page Count: 632

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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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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