Baldwin’s genius glimmers throughout as Glaude effectively demonstrates how truth does not die with the one who spoke it.

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JAMES BALDWIN'S AMERICA AND ITS URGENT LESSONS FOR OUR OWN

A penetrating study of how the words of James Baldwin (1924-1987) continue to have (often painful) relevance today.

Glaude, a frequent guest on political talk shows and chair of the African American Studies department at Princeton, has long read, admired, and taught Baldwin’s work. In this follow-up to his 2016 book, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, the author mines that work to illustrate our ongoing inability to confront what both Baldwin and Glaude call the lie at the center of our American self-conception and how the nation refuses “to turn its back on racism and to reach for its better angels.” Glaude employs a blend of genres: some biography of Baldwin (the text ends at Baldwin’s gravesite), literary analysis of key works, memoir (first-person appears throughout), and pieces of American history, especially those events that many of us don’t want to think about. Repeatedly, the author examines “the ugliness of who we are”—and of the men we have elected president (Reagan and Trump do not come off well). In prose that is eloquent and impassioned—sometimes hopeful, sometimes not—the author presses his fingers on our bruises, the ones many of us would prefer to ignore. Among his many topics: Martin Luther King Jr. and how his murder both elevated his status and began to create the myth that conceals much of the truth about him; the civil rights movement and how many of its gains have been lost; the mass incarceration epidemic and what the author believes are the legally sanctioned murders of young black men. Much of the focus, of course, is on Baldwin: his literary rise, his years abroad (France, Turkey), and how, later in life, he continued to sell well but had lost the approval of many key literary critics. Both Baldwin and Glaude argue that we must begin again.

Baldwin’s genius glimmers throughout as Glaude effectively demonstrates how truth does not die with the one who spoke it.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-525-57532-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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