Fine slice of American military and revolutionary history—good for commodores in the making, too.

JOHN PAUL JONES

SAILOR, HERO, FATHER OF THE AMERICAN NAVY

Sturdy, seaworthy life of the Scottish-born hero of the American Revolution, whom John Adams characterized as “the most ambitious and intriguing officer in the American Navy.”

Jones, already a legend in his early 30s thanks to his daring exploits aboard the Bonhomme Richard, wasn’t exactly forgotten at the end of the Revolution, although he felt ill-used when Congress ignored his offer to establish a naval academy and make America a maritime power and instead auctioned off the Continental Navy’s few surviving frigates. He was given to mercurial moods and feelings of persecution anyway, writes Newsweek assistant managing editor Thomas (Robert Kennedy, 2000, etc.), very much like his contemporary Benedict Arnold, whom Thomas considers to have been Jones’s “closest rival . . . for drive and resourcefulness”—adding that “unlike Arnold, Jones remained steadfast to the American cause,” though both complained about official indifference to their brilliance and about “commands offered and withdrawn.” Jones therefore stalked off to Paris after the war against England, where he nursed his wounds before finding work as an admiral in the navy of the Russian tsarina Catherine the Great. There, he found himself embroiled in political intrigues of many kinds, though his undoing would prove to be an unseemly encounter with a 12-year-old girl that naturally enough, “left him vulnerable to scandal.” Shunned and disgraced, he returned to Paris, where he died in 1792 at the age of 45—just a few days, ironically enough, before a commission arrived from Congress for him to go and have sharp words with the Dey of Algiers about the matter of the Barbary Pirates. Thomas’s account of these events—and whether Jones ever really said “I have not yet begun to fight”—is skillfully rendered, and his blend of period detail and modern psychobiography just right for the job.

Fine slice of American military and revolutionary history—good for commodores in the making, too.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-0583-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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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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