A highly engaging history not just for space-race enthusiasts, but also students of Cold War politics.

AMERICAN MOONSHOT

JOHN F. KENNEDY AND THE GREAT SPACE RACE

A look back at the days when American presidents and politicians believed in and promoted science—days when there was a world to win, along with the heavens.

Prolific historian Brinkley (Chair, History/Rice Univ.; Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, 2016, etc.) avers that his latest is a contribution to “U.S. presidential history (not space studies).” However, in his customarily thorough way, it’s clear that he’s mastered a great deal of the facts and lore surrounding the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects that landed American astronauts on the moon 50 years ago. As his account unfolds, two themes emerge. One is that fiscal conservatives, exemplified by President Dwight Eisenhower, were reluctant to fuel the emerging military-industrial complex, affording John F. Kennedy a campaign issue that revolved around the “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. As Brinkley writes, “having been raised in a family obsessed with winning at every level, [Kennedy] reduced the complexities of Cold War statesmanship to a simple contest.” The second theme is that the space race was very much an extension of the wider Cold War. In both matters, notes the author, NASA became the beneficiary of both federal largess and the advantages of “unfettered capitalism,” tapping into a fast-growing network of military contractors and spinning off basic research into an array of technological products. Even during the Bay of Pigs crisis, Kennedy kept his eye on the lunar prize, tasking his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, with determining whether the American parties involved in the space race were “making maximum effort.” With JFK’s assassination, the moon program seemed in danger of losing impetus and funding, but thanks to a vigorous NASA administrator and political allies in Congress and the executive branch, the Kennedy-inspired effort was realized. In fact, writes the author, it became a “marvelous alternative to all-out war with the USSR or future proxy wars such as Korea."

A highly engaging history not just for space-race enthusiasts, but also students of Cold War politics.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-265506-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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