Given Dowding’s extracurricular activities, one can understand why Churchill canned him. Still, Fisher’s portrait of the...

A SUMMER BRIGHT AND TERRIBLE

WINSTON CHURCHILL, LORD DOWDING, RADAR, AND THE IMPOSSIBLE TRIUMPH OF THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the hyperrational Sherlock Holmes, believed in fairies and ghosts. Why should a pioneer of radar defense systems not have done the same?

His contemporaries, writes science historian and novelist Fisher (Hard Evidence, 1995, etc.), had trouble linking RAF commander-in-chief Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding to the curious little man who lectured on spiritualism, talked to the long-dead inhabitants of Atlantis and believed in flying saucers. “Is this Lord Dowding any relation to Sir Hugh Dowding who fought the Battle of Britain?” asked a disbelieving attendee of one such lecture; when his friend replied that Dowding’s son must have been the hero, the man added, “I wonder what a smart guy like him would think of his old man going off the rails that way.” Though unconventional, Dowding, as Fisher shows, was a careful reader of the skies, a gifted strategist of the air whose interest in “invisible rays” led to the establishment of ground-based radar defenses around southern England just in time to help ward off a Nazi invasion, and whose nimble command of the RAF, though not without its controversies, saved the day at the Battle of Britain. For instance, Fisher notes, Dowding had a much-discussed habit of hoarding his fighters, “sending them up a few at a time into overwhelming odds so that he might have a few ready for tomorrow”; his pilots may not have enjoyed those odds, but when the Luftwaffe made its last desperate attempt to clear the way for that invasion, Dowding had the wherewithal to fight them off—and the radar to indicate just where the Luftwaffe would be found on that fateful day. All the same, Dowding does not often figure in surveys of WWII history, at least in some measure because Churchill fired him not long after the great British victory and wrote him out of his History of the Second World War.

Given Dowding’s extracurricular activities, one can understand why Churchill canned him. Still, Fisher’s portrait of the dotty Dowding is a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59376-047-7

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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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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