A relevant history suggesting that the U.S. may be stronger than many of its citizens believe.

FEARS OF A SETTING SUN

THE DISILLUSIONMENT OF AMERICA'S FOUNDERS

Why the Founding Fathers believed the political system they created was “an utter failure that was unlikely to last beyond their own generation.”

Making the striking argument that all but one of the major founders of the U.S. died disillusioned with their creation, Rasmussen nevertheless offers hope for our current predicaments. Focusing on George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, the author scrutinizes their surviving papers for a single element of their thought: their confidence in the future of the federal republic. His distinctive approach yields something overlooked by historians. All of them—and there were others—save Madison died pessimistic about their country’s future. The partisanship that broke out during Washington’s presidency deeply troubled him. Hamilton’s dark mood arose from what he saw as the government’s feebleness. Adams was forever despondent about his fellow citizens’ lack of virtue. Jefferson became deeply anxious about disunion; he went to his death “riddled with doubts” about the young nation’s survival. Only Madison—a man less troubled by partisanship, weak government, and the union’s breakup and more confident that institutions could offset a lack of public virtue—escaped the other founders’ dark forebodings. But should we see their misgivings as the realism of mature reflection or as an indication of an inability to adjust to changes in a distinctive nation whose future has never been foreseeable? While offering an authoritative and convincing argument in disarmingly artful prose, Rasmussen doesn’t answer that question. However, while emphasizing the founder’s “late-life despair,” he ends on a hopeful note. Despite systemic problems that have existed since the nation’s founding, our current woes “are less likely to ultimately doom the republic than we often fear”—as long as we follow these great men who, despite their fears, forged ahead until their deaths with “steadfast resolve” to strengthen the nation they’d established and led in its infancy.

A relevant history suggesting that the U.S. may be stronger than many of its citizens believe.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-691-21023-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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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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