Fascinating presentation of what, for most Americans, made Kennedy who he was.

FORTY WAYS TO LOOK AT JFK

The 1,037 days of Camelot and the life preordained to produce it. What was real, and what wasn’t?

Readers who like sequentially flowing biography may initially recoil at Rubin’s approach. This isn’t what we now know about Kennedy; it’s what we’ve known all along—words, pictures, ideas, deeds—resorted and pinned together as if on a corkboard in a homicide case. But if it worked at all with the former Yale law professor’s initial subject, Winston Churchill (Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, 2003), it works to the nines with Kennedy. Her first chapter, for instance, showing JFK as an ideal leader, is followed by a critical account based on different sources. Whether Kennedy, had he lived, would have extricated the country from Vietnam is handled similarly later on, in two speculative, conflicting accounts, both convincing, that make a clear case that there were differences between his public record and his confidences to aides. It all sheds light on why historians have tended to rate his presidency considerably lower than the public recalls it. Yet Kennedy’s machinations to project an image that captured what Lincoln once pegged as “public sentiment” were so successful, Rubin argues, because he himself was a unique vehicle. The author does not shrink from delineating the scope of JFK’s promiscuity and marital infidelity; taken together, JFK’s sexual exploits represent an appalling amount of risk (appetite aside), rendering insignificant, by comparison, the dalliances of, say, Harding and Clinton. It does impinge on his greatness, Rubin allows, but doesn’t deny it.

Fascinating presentation of what, for most Americans, made Kennedy who he was.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-345-45049-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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