Few original insights but fine biographies.

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FRANKLIN & WASHINGTON

THE FOUNDING PARTNERSHIP

The latest addition to the relatively new genre of dual biographies of Founding Fathers.

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Larson (History and Law/Pepperdine Univ.; To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration, 2018) writes that both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington rose to prominence in the 1750s during the French and Indian War. Already in his 50s, Franklin had grown wealthy in the printing business, retired to make a worldwide reputation as a scientist, and become a power in Pennsylvania politics. Three decades younger, Washington used family connections to obtain a Virginia military command. More through luck and self-promotion than competence, he became a nationally known military figure. During this period, the two met in Philadelphia several times and exchanged letters relating to the war. There followed nearly 20 years apart. Sent to England in 1757 to represent Pennsylvania’s and then the Colonies’ interests, Franklin traveled back and forth until 1775. Washington married a rich widow, became a wealthy planter, and served in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Franklin returned to join the second Continental Congress in May 1775. During the six weeks before Washington left to command the army, they worked together, but details are scant. Franklin sailed to France, where he remained until 1785, lobbying for French aid. He and Washington exchanged a few letters. Their closest interactions came during the 1787 Constitutional Convention where they (with James Madison) were the most influential figures. Larson’s Washington is not the traditional passive father figure but rather an energetic proponent of a strong presidency. Franklin believed the final product gave the president too much power, but he supported it anyway. Despite Larson’s efforts, few readers will fail to note that the pair were never a close-knit team (à la Washington/Hamilton or Jefferson/Madison) or rivals (à la Jefferson/Adams or Jefferson/Hamilton) but national icons who knew and respected each other. To call them partners is a stretch.

Few original insights but fine biographies.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288015-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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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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