Trenchantly sardonic.

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SCAPEGOAT

A HISTORY OF BLAMING OTHER PEOPLE

A wry, entertaining study of the history of blame.

The book is comprised of 14 short essays in which former Literary Review books editor Campbell discusses types of scapegoats as well as some of the psychological and social reasons why humans seem unable to break the habit of “targeting minorities and marginalized groups when things go wrong.” The author claims that scapegoating “goes right back to the beginning of mankind.” The earliest human cultures had rituals that professed to do away with the wrongs of entire communities and aid in the return to an imaginary state of innocence. They sometimes used animals as sacrificial victims; more often, though, these cultures used those on the social fringes—e.g., criminals, slaves, the disabled—to bear the burden of their collective sins. Belief systems seem to be at the core of all scapegoating throughout history, since most of them are built on the fundamental dualism of good and evil. The unfortunate result has been an “us versus them” mentality that is really an expression of a “refusal to accept responsibility for our actions.” Campbell suggests that blame is a driving engine of histories both great and small. Not only did it bring about the Crusades and the Holocaust; it was also behind the 19th-century trial of a Great Auk charged with witchcraft. Blame is a way for creatures “who pride [themselves] on being the most intelligent life-form on earth” to make sense of a chaotic world—and reveal their ultimate stupidity.

Trenchantly sardonic.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59020-716-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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