Fun to flip through; engrossing to read.



Part memoir, part cultural history, part treasure trove of drawings and photographs, many previously unpublished—and all thoroughly delightful as a celebration of the golden age of newspaper comics.

Murphy (God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, 2012, etc.) has distinguished himself as a journalist through his work at Vanity Fair and the Atlantic, but here he is very much his father’s son—and collaborator. John Cullen Murphy drew the once-popular “Big Ben Bolt” strip and later took over the “Prince Valiant” strip, with his son helping on storylines for some three decades. Beyond that, the author “grew up in an unusual environment—not only as the child of a cartoonist and illustrator, but connected to a network of families where everyone’s father was a cartoonist or illustrator.” He estimates the group comprised more than 100 cartoonists, neighbors, and an extended social circle, all living near each other in Connecticut. Amid the suburban boom to which the artists contributed after returning from World War II—an experience that served as a common denominator and spawned “Beetle Bailey,” “G.I. Joe,” and more—Connecticut was the one state in that region that not only provided close access to the New York publishing world, but had no income tax. In the era before computers, artists working on tight deadlines relied on registered mail when they could and hopped aboard trains when the mail was too slow. Generally working in isolation, they “loved the camaraderie of the cartooning tribe, everyone slightly off register and anxious for company.” There are stories of Murphy’s father serving as the all-American-boy model for Norman Rockwell (who proved an inspiration and a patron), of the creators of “Superman,” “Nancy,” “Family Circus,” and so many others, and of a feud with Al Capp, which resulted in a rival being dismissed by their guild’s “hastily formed ethics committee” for “conduct unbecoming a cartoonist.” The book is also an elegy for the era before comics went online or morphed into graphic novels, when a popular strip seemed to capture the entire nation’s eyeballs.

Fun to flip through; engrossing to read.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-29855-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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