The Booth family's important place in theater history has often been overshadowed or obscured by the notoriety of John Wilkes. This anecdotal group-biography, by the author of When the Cheering Stopped and other popular history/biography, doesn't help matters much—since nearly half the book is devoted to the largely familiar assassination saga. As a personality, father Junius Brutus Booth (1796-1852) seems the most interesting figure here. The son of a well-to-do London lawyer, young wastrel Junius was unprepossessing offstage but, more than a little mad, became a quick success in frenzied acting roles. He soon ran off to America with his pregnant mistress, abandoning a wife and child; within a year, he was considered the country's most prominent actor and, settling in Maryland, he fathered more children, cultivated many eccentricities, and succumbed frequently to alcoholism. Somber teenaged son Edwin was pushed onstage early; he went through a libertine phase, roughed it on the mining-camp vaudeville circuit, suffered from depression and alcoholism—but emerged, in his unextravagant way, as the era's greatest Hamlet, the ``Prince of Players.'' His little brother Johnny had it easier; with legendary good looks and natural exuberance, his acting fame came without much effort. But, for reasons never made clear, John Wilkes became obsessed with the South's defeat, with the idea of kidnapping and, later, with killing Lincoln. Smith savors every detail of the assassination melodrama, even those—like Mrs. Lincoln's neuroses—that have nothing to do with Booth. By contrast, Edwin's life from 1865 to 1893 (blighted by shame but busy nonetheless) is covered in two sketchy chapters. And the book is limited throughout by Smith's failure to probe or interpret, by his willingness to give equal weight to stories of varying credibility. Readable but only half-satisfying pop-history—more for assassination buffs (Smith brings together many sources) than for fanciers of theater history. (B&w photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-76713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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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 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...


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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