A solid study of an outlaw and his image.

DILLINGER’S WILD RIDE

THE YEAR THAT MADE AMERICA’S PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE

One year in the life of legendary criminal John Dillinger.

With this new biography of the Depression-era bank robber, Gorn (History/Brown Univ.; Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, 2001, etc.) demonstrates that the American popular imagination never seems to tire of Dillinger and his legend. Since his death at the hands of federal agents on July 22, 1934, that legend has only grown. He has been the subject of popular fiction and nonfiction for years, as well as numerous films, including the upcoming Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp as Dillinger. Gorn specifically addresses the phenomenon of Dillinger’s glamorous image and searches for an explanation of American society’s enduring fascination with outlaws. The author focuses on a one-year period in 1933 and ’34, when Dillinger and his gang robbed more than a dozen banks across the country. In the process, more than a dozen policemen, civilians, and gang members were killed, and reporters followed the gang’s exploits every step of the way. Though they were captured in January 1934, Dillinger managed to escape jail by—legend has it—carving a fake gun out of wood and brandishing it at the guards. Whether the wooden-gun story is true is still a point of contention—and Gorn doesn’t seek to solve the mystery—but newspapers reported it as real and began to write about Dillinger as a “calm, humorously cynical bandit” and “a carefree devil with many likable traits.” During the Depression, when thousands of people lost their homes to bank foreclosures, Dillinger became a Robin Hood–style hero to many—he took from the rich, even if he didn’t give to the poor. “The violence notwithstanding,” writes Gorn, “there was something deeply appealing about [him], his nerves, his coolness, his élan.” The author also makes a strong case that Dillinger’s favorable publicity galvanized federal agents’ efforts to bring him down.

A solid study of an outlaw and his image.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-19-530483-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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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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