A necessarily sketchy but worthwhile contribution to our understanding of black political history.

FOR LABOR, RACE, AND LIBERTY

GEORGE EDWIN TAYLOR, HIS HISTORIC RUN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, AND THE MAKING OF INDEPENDENT BLACK POLITICS

A black man runs for president…in 1904.

With a slave for a father, George Edwin Taylor (1857–1925) was born in Arkansas. Orphaned young, he came of age in La Crosse, Wis., where thanks to his foster family he received a classical education rich in language and oratory. He became a reporter, editor and publisher of newspapers that championed the causes of farmers and workingmen. From mentors like publisher “Brick” Pomeroy, a founder of the Greenback Party, and political insurgent Frank “White Beaver” Powell, Taylor learned and perfected the fiery language of populism. Following a series of third-party alliances, a move to Iowa and a brief flirtation with the Republicans, Taylor allied with the Democrats for more than a decade before emerging as the “standard-bearer of the National Negro Liberty Party.” Mouser (A Slaving Voyage to Africa and Jamaica: The Log of the Sandown, 1793-1794, 2002, etc.) forthrightly concedes the difficulty of reconstructing Taylor’s life—no personal papers survive—and acknowledges that even periods of years go missing. We learn almost nothing about Taylor’s three wives or of the health issues that apparently plagued him. Receiving only 2,000 votes and getting crushed by Theodore Roosevelt in a presidential election normally wouldn’t warrant even the slight biographical sketch the author dutifully attempts, but Taylor’s work as a writer and activist commands our attention for two reasons. First, Barack Obama’s historic election has heightened interest in all his antecedents, however obscure. Second, Taylor’s career opens a window on the first stirrings of independent black politics. His uncommon background and training, his migration from farm/labor causes to race-centered issues and his peculiar place in the era’s black political firmament—caught between the eastern intellectual establishment led by W.E.B. Du Bois and the waning Southern school embodied by Booker T. Washington—all offer an unusual perspective on the larger story of an emerging consciousness that would came to fruition more than 100 years later.

A necessarily sketchy but worthwhile contribution to our understanding of black political history.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-299-24914-4

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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