A quirky biographical sketch of the sometimes forgotten Nobel laureate. Though in his youth during the 1930s, as a political science professor and administrator at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Bunche gained a reputation as something of an armchair radical, he became in later life an enduring symbol of moderation. It was Bunche the research scholar, for example, who helped to guide and write Gunnar Myrdal’s mammoth study of black Americans following the 1935 Harlem riots. On the international front, Bunche was called on as a troubleshooter with the United Nations (where he was director of trusteeship and then undersecretary) to quell warring factions in the Middle East, the Congo, and Cyprus. In light of those and other accomplishments, which included a 1950 Nobel Prize for his Middle East peacemaking role, Henry (African American Studies/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) wonders why, close to half a century later, most Americans, including blacks, don’t seem to know who Bunche was. Perhaps this was partly Bunche’s own fault. Reserved and even staid, he was unaccustomed to calling attention to himself as either a diplomat or an academic. In fact, his first government job was with the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, where it’s assumed that reticence is golden—and instrumental. But Henry wants instead to cast Bunche as a controversial and charismatic figure, cut to fit the mold of a W.E.B. DuBois. His explorations in search of this Bunche lead to digressions that would have the reader believe his book is an excursion into black intellectual history, with Bunche as an incidental stop along the way. A basic statement of Bunche’s racial views, for instance, becomes a dissertation on slavery; a movie made about him yields to a long discourse about the role of African-Americans in the movies. These digressions cloud our view of the man. (25 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8147-3582-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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