Reserved for the scholar’s bookshelf.

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A REFORMING PEOPLE

PURITANISM AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF PUBLIC LIFE IN NEW ENGLAND

Reconsideration of state- and community-building by American Puritans of the mid-1600s.

Playing upon the term “reform,” Hall (Divinity/Harvard Univ.; Ways of Writing: The Practice and Politics of Text-Making in Seventeenth-Century New England, 2008 etc.) explores how the American Puritans set about a process of political and social reform that mirrored, yet surpassed, that of their English counterparts. “Amid the tumult of English popular politics of the 1640s,” writes the author, “the colonists were enacting an ‘English Revolution’ of their own.” In an attempt to eschew the overbearing authoritarianism the colonists had left England to avoid, the Puritans created communities marked by what could be seen as a proto-democratic political ethic. However, Hall goes to some length to remind his readers that such terms as “liberal” and “authoritarian” would have been lost on the Puritans, and indeed are of little help to modern scholars in understanding the colonists’ motives and results. Not only did congregational life largely define New England statecraft, reformed theology also defined public discourse. Another theme exposed by the author is the modern-day tendency to see Puritan New England either as a vanguard of liberties or as a touchstone of theocracy. Again, Hall argues that in no case was the period that simplistic. Though the author demonstrates rigorous scholarship, the book is not accessible to general readers. Aimed at an audience already familiar with both Puritan New England and the English Civil Wars, the narrative is often opaque and dry.

Reserved for the scholar’s bookshelf.

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-679-44117-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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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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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