A well-documented examination of a once-prominent radical.



An intimate portrait of a noted public intellectual.

In a richly detailed biography of writer, editor, and political pundit Max Eastman (1883-1969), Irmscher (English/Indiana Univ.; Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science, 2013, etc.) draws on his subject’s prolific published works and abundant archival sources, including vast numbers of letters to and from his many lovers. In his own autobiography, Eastman made much of his love affairs, and Irmscher allows them to dominate a biography that reiterates Eastman’s erotic poems, protestations of desire, and his lovers’ ecstatic responses. Eastman was handsome, attractive, and apparently irresistible to women, even into his 80s. Probably a virgin when he married the strong-willed Ida Rauh, he felt immediate remorse: “I had lost, in marrying Ida, my irrational joy in life,” he proclaimed. That joy could be enhanced by all the women “waiting for him, women who wanted to receive him with open arms.” His three wives—he divorced Ida, virtually abandoning her and their son—acquiesced to his affairs, though they were often considerably hurt. When not focused on Eastman’s sex life, Irmscher traces the evolution of his political thought from socialist to radical conservative. As a student at Columbia, he was influenced by John Dewey, who embodied, Eastman believed, “the essence of democracy.” He rallied to keep America out of World War I, and with his activist sister, he campaigned for women’s suffrage. He established his reputation as editor of the leftist journals The Masses and The Liberator, and he publicized and translated Leon Trotsky. But in the 1930s, he became ardently convinced that a spreading “communist conspiracy” threatened American democracy. As Irmscher discovered, “there was no detail of alleged communist infiltration that escaped his attention.” From having friends like John Reed and Edna St. Vincent Millay, he preferred the company of “free market advocates, right-wingers, and libertarians.” In his critical works, he derided the “linguistic gimmickry” of modernist writers and found a home for his views in Reader’s Digest.

A well-documented examination of a once-prominent radical.

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-22256-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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 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...


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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