A readable history of a man who tried to do his best, handicapped by the subject's limits and the author's ulterior motives.

AN HONEST PRESIDENT

THE LIFE AND PRESIDENCIES OF GROVER CLEVELAND

In an effort to bring to Grover Cleveland the public acclaim he has not had since the 19th century, popular historian and crime novelist Jeffers (Who Killed Precious?, 1991, etc.) tells the story of this honest, decent, and somewhat boring Chief Executive.

The only US president to serve two non-consecutive terms and to marry during his tenure, Cleveland was known in his day for his forthright honesty and determined integrity. From his stints as veto-happy mayor of Buffalo, corruption-fighting governor of New York, and reform-minded president, Cleveland emerges as an ethical man who followed his convictions despite the corrupt enticements of the Gilded Age. Jeffers's biography moves briskly along, but the occasionally turgid prose creates a few stumbling blocks. Also, it seems at times that the author has not fully assimilated his research: at one point Cleveland's father is described as a “brilliant student” at Yale; later, Jeffers states that the senior Cleveland was considered “studious but not brilliant.” The incessant praise of Cleveland often reaches fulsome levels; Grover is lauded for publicly confessing that he fathered an illegitimate child, yet Jeffers never criticizes his hero for tucking the boy away into an orphanage when his mother was confined to a mental asylum. An Honest President opens and closes with attacks on Bill Clinton for his sexual peccadilloes, and by the end of the biography readers may wonder if the author’s primary objective is to lambaste Clinton by comparing him to this supposedly sterling presidential figure. In the end, Jeffers fails to significantly improve Cleveland's image, because his text adequately reflects an honest yet uninspiring politician.

A readable history of a man who tried to do his best, handicapped by the subject's limits and the author's ulterior motives.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-380-97746-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more