Deeply researched, telling moments in the life of arguably the most written-about man in American history.

SIX ENCOUNTERS WITH LINCOLN

A PRESIDENT CONFRONTS DEMOCRACY AND ITS DEMONS

Six little-known anecdotes about President Abraham Lincoln during fraught times and what they show about his character.

Former U.S. senior diplomat Pryor (Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, 2007, etc.), who died in a car accident in 2015, painstakingly unearths hidden episodes in the life of Lincoln as he was trying to manage a riven republic and civil war. The author gets beyond the hagiographic portrayals of Lincoln (one contemporary noted, “the murderer’s bullet opens to him immortality”), allowing rare glimpses of the man as vulnerable, clumsy, inarticulate, and very human. In his new role as head of the armed forces on March 12, 1861—just days after his inauguration and the secession of the Confederate states—Lincoln had to view the parade of federal troops through the White House, led by Gen. Winfield Scott, who was not entirely trusted. Unfortunately, the meeting underscored the inexperience of the new leader. Another odd incident: during Lincoln’s ceremonial role of hoisting the U.S. flag over a new Marine bandstand set up on the South Lawn of the White House in late June 1861, the huge flag ripped, severing the upper stripe and four of its stars—not a good omen. From here, Pryor launches into an elucidating look at Lincoln’s “legacy of fun” and his love of storytelling—not to mention how his face was ripe for caricature. In August 1862, Sgt. Lucien P. Waters, who “abhorred slavery,” managed an interview with the president to air his grievances about the Union’s frustratingly slow advances and ask for a furlough; Lincoln, glum and exasperated over the issue of slavery, muttered about the “damned or Eternal niggar, niggar,” shocking Waters and revealing Lincoln's conflicted state at the time. Another anecdote demonstrates his discomfort engaging one-on-one with women. Kudos to Pryor for offering readers something fresh about our 16th president—no small feat.

Deeply researched, telling moments in the life of arguably the most written-about man in American history.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-670-02590-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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