THE TWO AMERICAN PRESIDENTS

A DUAL BIOGRAPY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND JEFFERSON DAVIS

Chadwick (Brother Against Brother, 1997) recounts what are by now well-known details in the lives of Lincoln, the prairie stalwart, and Davis, the gentleman farmer from Mississippi, who respectively led the United States and the Confederate States during the Civil War. His conclusion: that the two leaders were different, and that their personalities influenced the outcome of the conflict. Lincoln was stern, austere, in control of his emotions, although —ambition burned in him like an incandescent candle.— Davis, mercurial and violence-prone, was —a steaming cauldron,— although he —was governing as a humanitarian interested in preserving individual liberties and running the army as an enlightened commander.— Stir in cannons, and you have Appomattox. Chadwick does hit on a note of interest, for just a moment, when he briefly examines the unfolding scholarly literature on various attempts by the two leaders to have each other assassinated (one thinks of Kennedy and Castro); he cites Federal papers captured by Confederates at Richmond that ordered the immediate execution of Davis and his cabinet, and he suggests that John Wilkes Booth was under Davis’s orders, but only to kidnap Lincoln from the Ford Theatre. Chadwick’s unapologetic reversion to the Great Man theory of history will not impress professional historians, who have long since attributed to other causes’superior firepower, control of the seas—the eventual Union victory over the secessionists. Neither, because the book is so poorly written, will it likely impress Civil War buffs, who will already have almost all the information Chadwick presents. Relentlessly disappointing. (24 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55972-462-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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