No news for anyone who’s read Steven Runciman or James Reston Jr., and too diffuse to instruct those who haven’t heard the...

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MAKING WAR IN THE NAME OF GOD

The clash of civilizations is really a clash of extremisms, the subject of this middling book on intolerance and its well-contents.

Humans will always find an excuse to kill one another. One of the most effective is religion, and, writes Catherwood (History/Cambridge Univ.; Churchill’s Folly: How Winston Churchill Created Modern Iraq, 2004, etc.), “since most people alive today are religious in some form or another, religion is often the excuse made to slaughter others on a grand scale.” Christians have killed Christians for as long as there has been Christianity, he notes; Muslims are busily killing Muslims today. Catherwood’s grand theme is one that Christopher Hitchens might approve, save that in the latter’s hands the story would have had some verve. As it is, Catherwood blends academic aridity with lecture-note insistence on the righteousness of his subject matter and himself, such that he avers that “it is important for you, the reader, to know where I come from” and takes pains to point out that “the Crusaders did not understand the basic tenets of their own faith,” which surely would have come as news to Richard Lionheart and company. (“Holy war is wrong,” Catherwood adds, rather meekly.) The author strains to hit an appropriate culturally relative note, suggesting that even if jihad really does mean war in the name of Allah, most right-thinking Muslims take it metaphorically. Some census figures would be nice on all this, for surely there are plenty who are at work on the basis of that earlier interpretation, just as there are plenty of their Christian counterparts who would mount a new Crusade given half the opportunity. In the end, knowing that there are bad Serbs and good ones and that the old Westphalian worldview is a thing of the past is not enough, and this book doesn’t offer much more.

No news for anyone who’s read Steven Runciman or James Reston Jr., and too diffuse to instruct those who haven’t heard the news at all.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8065-2785-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Citadel/Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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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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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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