A philosophically ambitious account of coming to adulthood, only slightly marred by occasional bursts of sentimentality and...

THE UNFORGIVING MINUTE

A SOLDIER’S EDUCATION

Keenly intelligent war memoir whose central question is, “What is a man?”’

First-time author Mullaney, a West Point graduate, Rhodes Scholar and veteran of combat in Afghanistan, searches for the answer while investigating a second question: What kind of man is a soldier? At West Point and in the Army, soldier and man are one and the same. Mullaney’s intelligence and sensitivity are too fine-tuned for such a simple conflation. Nevertheless, war and the training he underwent to prepare for it provided the instruments with which he takes the measure of his own manhood. The oldest of four children in a working-class Irish-American family from rural Rhode Island, Mullaney was already mature beyond his years as the memoir begins with his 1996 departure for West Point, where he drove himself to excel in both sport and scholarship. The book is divided in three parts of unequal length: Student, Soldier and Veteran. In the first and longest section, Mullaney contrasts his Spartan education at West Point and Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., with the more Athenian style of scholarship at Oxford, where he read history and world literature, polished his rough edges and met Meena, the Tamil-American doctor-in-training who became his wife. As a soldier in Afghanistan, all of Mullaney’s education was put to the test. He took pride in a humanitarian mission he led near Gardez to vaccinate members of the Kuchi tribe and treat their animals to a veterinary checkup. But when his company moved to Shkin, near the border with Pakistan and on the front of the war against al-Qaeda, the death of one of his soldiers made him agonize over his responsibility and doubt his ultimate commitment to the mission. As a veteran, attending his brother’s West Point graduation, Mullaney says, “there was so much I wanted to say to him...[but] I realized how little I could convey…the rest Gary would have to learn for himself.”

A philosophically ambitious account of coming to adulthood, only slightly marred by occasional bursts of sentimentality and sententiousness.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-202-5

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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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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