Essential to any Civil War collection and a book that invites rereading.

THE BLACK CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

A VISUAL HISTORY OF CONFLICT AND CITIZENSHIP

Documentary survey of the last days of slavery and the Black troops who helped end it.

At the beginning, MacArthur fellow Willis, the director of the NYU Institute for African American Affairs and the Center for Black Visual Culture, observes that “the photograph became the mechanical visual evidence that slavery existed, as did its resistance.” Memorable images abound in the historical catalog of American photography. First in the images of Black soldiers are cartes de visite, in which many are depicted standing ramrod straight with rifles in hand or seated with thoughtful, resolute looks on their faces. Though most soldiers couldn’t afford it, they proudly sent them home nonetheless. One such posed photograph is less formal though no less thoughtful, depicting 65-year-old Nicholas Biddle, a Pennsylvania soldier wounded by a hurled brick while marching through pro-Confederate Baltimore—and thus earning the distinction of being the first soldier to be wounded in the Civil War. As Willis notes, thousands of Black soldiers served the Confederacy, mostly in ancillary positions. One she highlights was a young Mississippi man, enslaved from birth, who served alongside the son of his owner in battle until the hostilities ended, whereupon he was awarded a pension as a Confederate veteran. “The perplexing relationships between slave masters and enslaved soldiers reflect the mystery of the human condition in this period,” Willis writes. Otherwise, most of the photographs depicted free Black soldiers in Union uniforms, soldiers and sailors who fought in large numbers for the cause of abolition and national unity. That they had cause to do so is self-evident, though the point is driven home by the image of “Whipped Peter,” a Union private who, while enslaved, had been scourged to the extent that he had horrific permanent welts on his back, providing a powerful symbol demanding an end to enslavement. The carefully constructed text, often incorporating letters and diary entries, is a winning complement to this superb collection of documentary images.

Essential to any Civil War collection and a book that invites rereading.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4798-0900-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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