LIFE OF THE PARTY

THE BIOGRAPHY OF PAMELA DIGBY CHURCHILL HAYWARD HARRIMAN

If the current US ambassador to France, Pamela Harriman, had spent as much time on her back as this book suggests, she would never have had the time to do the world-class housekeeping and flower arrangements that allegedly endeared her to her lovers—let alone become an authority on antiques, bring together historic personalities for global policy discussions, or raise millions of dollars for the Democratic party. Time correspondent Ogden (Maggie, 1990, a biography of Margaret Thatcher) was tapped to do the authorized Pam bio but was dumped, he says, when Ambassador Harriman got cold feet. Ogden had already keyed off ``some forty hours of interviews'' with the subject, for which he was not remunerated according to their original agreement. That may or may not have influenced his perspective when he decided to write the story anyway: He seems to view Harriman as a world-class courtesan. Chapters are for the most part named for the men in her life: Randolph (Churchill—first husband); Averell (Harriman—WW II lover and, decades later, third husband); Bill (Paley, CBS head); Ed (Murrow); JFK (misleading—she was friends with his sister); Gianni (Agnelli, Fiat head); Elie (de Rothschild); Leland (Hayward—second husband); Frank (Sinatra- -houseguest, no affair). For the first 16 (of 19) chapters, the author sniffs disapprovingly at her romantic life (more because she apparently let her lovers support her than because she was promiscuous), although he does admit that father-in-law Winston Churchill and his wife loved and protected her (even after her marriage to Randolph ended) as did most of her ex-lovers. Short on formal education but long on listening skills, Harriman trained that talent on a life lived by her own rules. This is fun to read as the names drop, but it offers more titillation than insight into a woman who rode out from a proper Dorset upbringing to adventure, wealth, power—and acknowledged achievement.

Pub Date: May 16, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-63376-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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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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