Mostly engaging, and Webber saves the best for last: Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and cadences moved an entire nation, and...

GIVE ME LIBERTY

SPEAKERS AND SPEECHES THAT HAVE SHAPED AMERICA

Episcopal priest Webber (American to the Backbone: The Life of James W.C. Pennington, the Fugitive Slave Who Became One of the First Black Abolitionists, 2011) traces America’s search for personal freedom through the men and women whose voices still demand our attention.

The author follows some of our best orators, from Patrick Henry and Daniel Webster to Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan, and he successfully shows how differently and yet how alike this struggle has been over the years. While Henry sought freedom from central government, Webster was committed to the same; they both sought personal freedom and feared too much power in any one place. The book gets a bit dry as the author moves into the abolitionists and suffragists. They fought to end slavery and create a free life for African-Americans and rallied against the death penalty and child labor along the way. The women who worked with them saw their own lack of freedom and fought for the vote and the right to own property, giving birth to the suffragist cause. The most interesting part of the book is the way Webber traces the seeds of ideas, the sources and connections as they are repeated through the years. Abraham Lincoln asked the same questions as Webster about preserving the Union, and he paraphrased Webster’s words in the ending of the Gettysburg Address: “of the people, by the people….” Adlai Stevenson used Lincoln’s “house divided” in a Cold War–era speech. Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down theory came straight from William Jennings Bryan. All these men and women spoke of freedom as a goal for all, and each dealt with the economic factors that controlled freedom: poverty, taxes and inequality.

Mostly engaging, and Webber saves the best for last: Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and cadences moved an entire nation, and he, like the other orators, used his voice for the millions who had none.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1605986333

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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