In a significant contribution to interpretive Civil War scholarship, Symonds (History/US Naval Academy) paints an engrossing portrait of one of the most enigmatic and important figures of the war. Contemporaries regarded Joseph E. Johnston as one of the greatest military talents in the Confederacy, in some estimates outranking even Johnston's friend and West Point classmate Robert E. Lee. Nonetheless, posterity remembers him only for commanding Confederate armies in a few inconclusive battles, including some nominal Southern victories—First Manassas (1861), Seven Pines (1862), Kennesaw Mountain (1864), and Bentonville (1865)—and for his failure to stop Grant at Vicksburg and Sherman at Atlanta. Johnston lacked Lee's brilliance, and his victories were more the result of careful planning and diligence than of genius. Yet without endorsing Johnston's tactic of avoiding battle with superior Union forces, Symonds articulates the case for Johnston's strategy: Johnston's army suffered considerably fewer losses than Lee's, and but for Jefferson Davis's giving the aggressive but foolhardy John Bell Hood command of the western army after the fall of Atlanta (which caused disastrous Confederate defeats at Franklin and Nashville), Johnston's Army of Tennessee would have remained intact longer than Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. While Symonds shows that the intensely reserved Johnston enjoyed close friendships with his brother officers, he also recounts the general's tragic failure to work harmoniously with the prickly Davis, which resulted in open enmity by the end of the war. Symonds relates how Johnston entered into the unseemly ``Battle of the Books'' after the war, denouncing Hood and Davis (whom Southerners regarded as a martyr) in his memoir and suffering denunciations in turn. A stimulating and absorbing biography of an undeservedly neglected warrior. (Illustrations; maps.)

Pub Date: March 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03058-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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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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