A well-honed work of driving focus, particularly timely in this new era of economic inequality.

A JUST AND GENEROUS NATION

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE FIGHT FOR AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY

The acclaimed Lincoln scholar and an economist make the argument that Abraham Lincoln worked tirelessly to maintain economic opportunity for all people—a “right to rise” concept that has been sacred to politicians from then to the present.

Lincoln wasn’t exactly an abolitionist, write Holzer (Lincoln and the Power of the Press, 2014, etc.) and Garfinkle (Future of American Democracy Foundation), but he envisioned that all Americans could embrace the “American dream,” from rags to riches as he had—even African-Americans. The authors concentrate their study on evidence of speeches and acts of Lincoln’s presidency that demonstrated his pursuit of “economic opportunity for the widest possible circle of hardworking Americans.” Lincoln hoped to extend Northern middle-class society into the new territories, and he abhorred the Southern aristocratic mindset that was opposed to social mobility through tariffs and internal improvements—e.g., public investment in infrastructure. New Western territories were, for Lincoln, meant for poor whites to “go and better their condition” and not for the spread of an institution, though protected by the Constitution, that restricted social mobility and depressed wages. The authors carefully sift Lincoln’s speeches, beginning in 1854 with his shrewd political calculation that restricting slavery in the Western territories would mean that at some point in the near future, the “slow but sure arrival of an ever-growing western anti-slavery bloc” would spell the end of slavery in Congress. Time was on Lincoln’s side, and he recognized that the nation “will become all one thing or all the other.” Moreover, he used his own autobiography to sell the “self-made man” story, as the poor farmer’s son who had scant education but huge motivation to better himself. In the second half of this compelling study, Holzer and Garfinkle trace how subsequent presidents managed this vastly changing postwar economic system and the shift from independent artisans to mills and factories.

A well-honed work of driving focus, particularly timely in this new era of economic inequality.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-02830-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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