A disquieting portrait of a religious community and its enigmatic leader.

WACO

A SURVIVOR'S STORY

A survivor of the government attack on the Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas, bears witness to the horrific event.

To coincide with a forthcoming miniseries about Waco, Thibodeau (A Place Called Waco, 1999) has updated his previous memoir, written with co-author Whiteson (A Terrible Beauty: An Exploration of the Positive Role of Violence in Culture, Life, and Society, 2010). The epilogue to this republication was written with the help of Whiteson’s widow. Thibodeau was a 21-year-old rock drummer when he met David Koresh in Los Angeles in 1990. “Not much in my life was going right,” he admits, so when Koresh invited him to join his Christian-oriented band, he readily agreed. Soon, he was invited to Waco, where he became fascinated by Koresh’s spiritual teachings. Koresh claimed that he had the key to decoding the Seven Seals; he himself “was the incarnation of the sacrificed Lamb” of the book of Revelation. As the leader of the hardscrabble community, he insisted on male celibacy: he alone was allowed to procreate, with any female—even girls of 12—“to generate the inner circle of children who would rule the coming kingdom to be established in Israel.” Although Thibodeau’s mother believed Koresh was skilled at “mind control” and “instilling extreme paranoia in his devotees,” Thibodeau defends the man who, he claims, changed his life for the better. Describing himself as a dreamer with no structure or direction for his life, with Koresh’s guidance, he learned to control his “appetites and impulses” and gained “some insight into a more profound way of being.” By 1993, the compound became the focus of government surveillance, fueled by testimony from disaffected members who had fled the community, claiming it was a dangerous cult peopled by “armed fanatics” brainwashed by a madman, guilty of gun stockpiling, child abuse, and statutory rape. Only the last charge, the author writes, could be supported. A violent, unjustified siege ended in a conflagration that killed 80 community members.

A disquieting portrait of a religious community and its enigmatic leader.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60286-573-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Weinstein Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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