An excellent portrayal of a patriot’s style and substance.


In this relatively brief biography, Morgan (History/Yale) aims to depict Franklin’s personality as much as the deeds that made him famous.

Of course, the two are related: the author argues that, unlike his colleagues among the Founding Fathers who rose to their positions via oratory or elected office or family connections, Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) accomplished his goals by working behind the scenes. He owed his success to his affability, his work as a printer and writer, and his fame as an inventor. His success in England and France as ambassador from the colonies and then the fledgling US derived more from his experiments with electricity than from his diplomatic portfolio. Having founded most of the cultural institutions in Philadelphia at the time, usually by coordinating groups of friends to support his proposals rather than working personally on any one project, he easily fluttered in and out of the English and French courts, discussing everything from the new devices called hot-air balloons to the loans Congress had asked him to acquire for his new country. Franklin’s skills at adapting to his environment could also be a shortcoming, writes Morgan. At the outset of the Revolution, he was an unrepentant imperialist who believed America would someday be the center of the British Empire. He’d spent years hobnobbing with British officials, and his initial proposals to keep the colonies in the fold were completely out of touch with the facts on the ground in places like Boston, where noted citizens were dumping tea into the harbor. By the time Franklin became a member of the Constitutional Convention, he tended to sit silently, his gravitas contributing more than his sharp tongue. Morgan’s account is based almost exclusively on its subject’s massive collection of writings (now being edited for publication in 46 volumes), but Franklin was diversified enough to satisfy most readers.

An excellent portrayal of a patriot’s style and substance.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-300-09532-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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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 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...


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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