An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.

LINCOLN AND THE ABOLITIONISTS

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, SLAVERY, AND THE CIVIL WAR

A fresh look at John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, abolitionism, and other related American history.

The great 19th-century champion of black equality was not Lincoln, writes Kaplan (Emeritus, English/Queens Coll.; John Quincy Adams: American Visionary, 2014, etc.), who has authored biographies of both of his principal figures. In this insightful, often disturbing dual biography, he makes a convincing case that Adams, working decades before Lincoln, was the real hero. The ex-president returned to Washington as a member of the House of Representatives in 1830. He never liked slavery, but it was not a priority during his presidency. In 1836, enraged by anti-slavery petitions, Southern representatives passed the legendary “gag rule” that forbade their discussion. Galvanized to action, Adams fought, eventually successfully, to overturn it, thereby becoming abolition’s leading spokesman until his death. Kaplan emphasizes that, unlike all other great men who disapproved of slavery (from Jefferson to Lincoln), Adams never qualified his opposition with racist rhetoric. A consummate politician, Lincoln could not offend Illinois voters who overwhelmingly considered blacks subhuman and loathed abolitionists. Lincoln publicly agreed, but his private writings give little comfort. He opposed slavery on humanitarian grounds, but, unlike Adams, “Lincoln would not go the next step…from antislavery moralism to antislavery activism.” As the Civil War raged, Lincoln fended off abolitionists, aware that most Northerners continued to despise them. The Emancipation Proclamation, a feeble step, was, as he feared, widely unpopular, but it was also the beginning of the end of the practice of slavery. This is accepted history, but readers accustomed to the worshipful History Channel view will squirm to learn that Lincoln never believed that blacks could live among whites as equals. Adams believed, and Kaplan drives this home in a fine portrait of a great man far ahead of his time.

An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244000-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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