Combat memoirs don’t get any more personal, and Meyer deserves honors for his honesty here just as much as for his...

INTO THE FIRE

A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY BATTLE IN THE AFGHAN WAR

Scarifying memoir by Medal of Honor winner Meyer, proving that war is indeed hell—and the bureaucracy of war more hellish still.

This cathartic, heartfelt account is not really a work of literature. Few readers would put it in the same class as similar memoirs by, say, Caesar or Ulysses S. Grant or even Anthony Swofford, and even the participation of military journalist West (The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, 2011, etc.) doesn’t keep the narrative from falling into pits of cliché and sentimentality. Earnest clumsiness aside, this is a book readers will want to study closely if they plan to go to war anytime soon, not least because of its helpful hints—e.g., in a firefight, watch your flank and pay attention to your officers, and you might just stay alive. A son of rural Kentucky and a highly trained sniper, Meyer gives a close reading of the tough and tenacious farming people he was put up against in Afghanistan: “It takes plain stubbornness to hack a living out of that flinty earth. If the villagers supported the insurgents, we were in for a long war.” The villagers indeed supported the insurgents—the Taliban and their allies—in the sliver of mountain-ringed valley, hard against the border of Pakistan, into which Meyer and his fellow Marines were inserted. There they fought what has come to be known as the Battle of Ganjigal, where Meyer earned his medal even in the face of inept decisions higher up. As he writes, an investigation of various intelligence and tactical failures found “some shortcomings and ‘poor battle management,’ ” which he likens to saying that Lincoln was shot because someone left a door at the Ford Theatre unlocked.

Combat memoirs don’t get any more personal, and Meyer deserves honors for his honesty here just as much as for his experiences in the field.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9340-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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