Easily satisfies Boyle’s premise that telling the customary three stories as one sheds valuable light on the Age of...

TOWARD THE SETTING SUN

COLUMBUS, CABOT, VESPUCCI, AND THE RACE FOR AMERICA

A new view of the connections and intrigues that bound together the New World’s principal discoverers.

London-based historian Boyle (The Troubadour’s Song: The Capture and Ransom of Richard the Lionheart, 2005, etc.) reconsiders the 15th century’s wave of transatlantic discoveries in terms of three prominent figures who not only knew each other but both collaborated and occasionally betrayed each other’s trust. It’s a grand span of history, still subject to revision as new information comes to light. In 1453, the Turkish conquest of Byzantium (Constantinople) threatened the Italian city-states’ opulence, heavily dependent on eastern trade routes to Asia. Christopher Columbus was then two years old, soon to be scampering the same Genoa back alleys as his boyhood pal (Boyle speculates) John Cabot, two years older. The author follows these two and their Florentine contemporary, Amerigo Vespucci, stressing that their primary motives were neither heroic nor humanitarian. The soon-to-be-named American continent had already been visited, either purposefully or by accident, he notes, by various other Europeans: Vikings briefly settled it 500 years earlier; English, Breton and even Basque cod fishermen had been driven ashore in gales, etc. The difference? These three were “ambitious but rather unsuccessful merchants…armed with a method—at least Columbus and Cabot—to profit by their discoveries that their rivals lacked.” These stateless mercenaries offered the New World’s largesse to monarchs of Spain and Portugal in return for a percentage for themselves. It didn’t pan out. Columbus’s fall was the hardest; in lieu of the gold he never found, he ultimately sent Taino Indians to Spain as slaves. The Tainos were probably already being enslaved, even cannibalized, by rival Caribs, Boyle comments, but Columbus was supposedly performing Christian acts. The author also suggests that Cabot’s death at sea, accepted as fact for centuries, may not have happened; here he elaborates on an alternative survival theory.

Easily satisfies Boyle’s premise that telling the customary three stories as one sheds valuable light on the Age of Exploration and its portent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1651-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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