All in all, a piffling and pet-peevish book, but sure to provoke merriment in cafes up and down the Champs Elysées.

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THE ROADS TO MODERNITY

THE BRITISH, FRENCH, AND AMERICAN ENLIGHTENMENTS

Put down your freedom fries, citoyens, and pause in awe as right-wing historian Himmelfarb attempts to rescue the Enlightenment from the awful French.

Mais oui, the French, “who have dominated and usurped” the Enlightenment, imagining—the nerve—that the likes of Diderot and Rousseau ever had any influence on the rest of the world. And then there are the insidious postmodernists, who, even though they’re sort of French themselves, have announced that inasmuch as slavery, war, and other evils persisted even as the philosophes converted good men and women to their cause, there is no need to pay any attention to “the Enlightenment project.” Well, stuff and nonsense, thunders Himmelfarb (One Nation, Two Cultures, 1999, etc.): the Enlightenment is enduring and just fine, and especially so if one restores it “to its progenitor: the British.” Wait a second, Angus: not the Scottish, but the British, by which Himmelfarb, through a neat bit of linguistic and geographical legerdemain, really means the English. (Yes, Hume was Scottish. Yes, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson were Scottish. But, bending time and space, Himmelfarb proposes adding John Locke and Isaac Newton to the mix, as well as the third Earl of Shaftesbury, to say nothing of Edward Gibbon, Joseph Priestly, and Thomas Paine, whereupon the sadly outnumbered Scots recede north of the Humber.) And the contribution of these Enlightened English to the enterprise? Why, the insistence not on “reason,” a touchy subject, “but the ‘social virtues’ or ‘social affections,’ ” as well as the view that religion was an ally and not—as the awful French had it—an enemy. Combine social virtues and religion and you have “benevolence,” “a more modest virtue than Reason, but perhaps a more humane one.” Another term for benevolence? Why, compassionate conservatism, “compassion” being a word that the English had “long before the French” and, being voluntary, that fit in well in the finest moment of the Enlightenment—namely, the creation of America.

All in all, a piffling and pet-peevish book, but sure to provoke merriment in cafes up and down the Champs Elysées.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4236-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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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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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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