A dazzling, richly researched story impeccably told.

A masterful tale of music, social, and economic history.

In 1965, when poet and essayist Wolff (The Names of Birds, 2015, etc.) was 13, he first heard Bob Dylan’s “sound of anger” on the radio. “Like a Rolling Stone” impressed him mightily. He sought out his earlier albums, and on Dylan’s first, there were two original songs. One was “Song to Woody,” which was “the sound of someone looking back in order to tell the truth.” This led the author to find out more about Woody Guthrie and to hear his music. He discovered a great singer/songwriter and political activist. That search then led him to Arlo Guthrie and his album, “Hobo’s Lullaby,” which included one of his father’s songs, “1913 Massacre.” In Calumet, Michigan, mostly striking mine workers, their wives, and children were having a crowded Christmas party in a large hall when someone falsely yelled “Fire!” In the desperate crush to escape, 73 people died. Listening to the song, Wolff realized Dylan had used the very same melody for his song about Guthrie. The pieces were falling into place: “Follow that darkish vein back to find…what? The history of anger. Hope. The truth.” The author takes us on a stunning, riveting journey as we learn about the young Dylan, Woody, Joe Hill, the famous singer/songwriter and union leader, the small town of Calumet, with its copper-mining operations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the unions and miners who were constantly taken advantage of by management and the mine owners. Along the way, Wolff introduces us to Woody’s fellow activist musician Pete Seeger and noted song collector Alan Lomax. He also tells the story of union organizer Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor, who first told Woody the Calumet story, and Alexander Agassiz, son of the famous scientist, who hired James MacNaughton as the union-busting manager of the Calumet mine in 1901. Wolff’s elegantly intertwined historical drama is consistently revelatory.

A dazzling, richly researched story impeccably told.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245169-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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