BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, POLITICIAN

THE MASK AND THE MAN

A revisionist look at Franklin, focusing on his long struggle against the power of the Penn family and his evolution into one of the nation's first revolutionaries. Jennings (Empire of Fortune, 1988, etc.) dismisses much of Franklin's Autobiography as a series of half-truths designed, like a campaign speech, to present himself in the best possible light for posterity. Instead, Jennings suggests that Franklin's struggle against Thomas Penn, which is not even mentioned in the Autobiography, was central to Franklin's political development and is crucial in understanding his later revolutionary career. Founded by William Penn, the Pennsylvania colony was ruled, when Franklin arrived from Boston in 1723, as a proprietary colony by the Penn family. After establishing himself as a successful printer and newspaper publisher, and while making signficant contributions to the study of electricity and creating America's first lending library and philosophical society, Franklin challenged the intractable Penns for political primacy in the colony: He supported the Quaker politicians in the Pennsylvania assembly, many of whom he privately despised, in their resistance to Thomas Penn's bad faith dealings with the local Indians and his arbitrary, inept rule of the colony, largely from London. Franklin also emerges as a champion of colonial defense against incursions by the French and Indian tribes. Franklin became a dedicated servant of the Crown and was at first very successful representing colonial interests in London. Ultimately, he became the focus of royal ire and was denounced on the floor of the Privy Council in an episode that led to his final break with Britain. As Pennsylvania's chief statesman, he was instrumental in calling the first meetings of patriots that led to the formation of the Continental Congress, and ultimately to the Revolution. A fine portrait of the political side of ``the first American.''

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-03983-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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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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