LINCOLN

In a significant contribution to Lincoln scholarship, distinguished historian and Pulitzer Prizewinning biographer Donald (Harvard; Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe, 1987, etc.) draws a richly detailed, absorbing portrait of our 16th president. The Lincoln that Donald gives us is an inexperienced, ill- prepared, and essentially passive man who nonetheless quickly grew into greatness as president during the nation's worst crisis. Lincoln, Donald argues, was by temperament and philosophy fatalistic and reactive, with a lifelong belief in the Doctrine of Necessity (human destiny controlled by a higher power) that finds expression in his assertion that ``the Almighty has His own purposes.'' Nonetheless, Lincoln was from childhood insatiably ambitious. Donald deftly traces Lincoln's rise from his hardscrabble frontier beginnings through his growth into an important local legislator and lawyer. Although Lincoln, a conservative Whig and devotee of Henry Clay, was for many years as unsuccessful as a politician as he was wealthy and prominent as an attorney, Lincoln's brilliant debating performance in his 1858 Senate race against Stephen A. Douglas catapulted him to national renown in the infant Republican party. Donald devotes most of his account to the story of Lincoln as war presidenthis at first inept, and gradually more skillful, stewardship of the armies, diplomacy, and other national affairs during the Civil Warthrough his assassination. Donald makes his case for his subject's passivity. However, Lincoln emerges as a chief executive who, with steadfastness of purpose and constant humor, resisted political pressures and personal attack from Democrats and Republicans alike, made bold decisions, and, although flexibly pragmatic about means, remained faithful to his inner vision of popular government and indissoluble union. A magisterial work, destined to assume its place with those of Beveridge, Sandburg, Thomas, and Oates as a standard life of Lincoln. (Book-of-the-Month Club split main selection; History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80846-3

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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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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