A welcome addition to the literature of the colonial frontier.

WHITE SAVAGE

WILLIAM JOHNSON AND THE INVENTION OF AMERICA

A displaced Irish Catholic dreams of home, but instead creates a Celtic homeland in the heart of Iroquois country.

Building on recent studies of the Indian-white frontier (e.g., Shirley Christian’s Before Lewis and Clark, 2004; and Jill Lepore’s The Name of War, 1998) and the mixed society that formed in the margin between nations, Irish Times columnist O’Toole (A Traitor’s Kiss, 1998, etc.) recounts the life of the soldier-adventurer William Johnson. The scion of a landowning family whose holdings had been badly reduced by the English conquest of Ireland, Johnson followed the example of his older cousin, a hero of the Royal Navy, and served the Crown, but always with qualifications, and always with one overarching imperative: to “get back the ancestral lands.” Johnson found himself deep in the forests of northern New York, where, setting the stage for the French and Indian War, he negotiated alliances with the Iroquois nations and organized raids into French Canada. The war he and his rangers fought was much different from the stand-and-shoot model of European conflict. One young French officer, for instance, fought bravely but was killed when he asked for quarters; Johnson recorded that the young man’s wounds were so bad that it was a mercy killing, but, writes O’Toole, “the pretence that killing him was an act of kindness does not alter the evident reality that his scalp was worth £10.” So it was on the frontier, where ordinary laws did not apply and Johnson, in fact, was more or less free to set his own rules. And so he did, sometimes violating the directives of the Crown to his advantage. O’Toole capably recounts Johnson’s achievements in making peace, however tenuous, on the frontier, and making a refuge for displaced Catholic Scots and Irish—a place that would become an extraordinarily bloody battleground soon after Johnson’s death, at the start of the Revolution.

A welcome addition to the literature of the colonial frontier.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-28128-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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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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