This often entertaining survey of recent African political history should interest both scholars and laypeople.

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The Mind of the African Strongman

CONVERSATIONS WITH DICTATORS, STATESMEN, AND FATHER FIGURES

Retired diplomat Cohen (Intervening in Africa, 2000) provides insight into the tension between dictatorship and democracy in post-colonial Africa.

With his extensive diplomatic experience—he served as director for Central African Affairs and George H.W. Bush’s assistant secretary of state—Cohen is well-placed to comment on African politics for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy series. He met and negotiated with many African leaders, and he relies on these personal anecdotes rather than stats for context and background. Subjects are helpfully grouped according to their commonalities—Francophone, British Commonwealth, or military chiefs. The work also contrasts recent pairs of leaders in Congo, Liberia, and South Africa. Cohen’s sharp eye reveals dictators’ fascinating and bizarre behavior: Albert-Bernard Bongo of Gabon, a 5-foot-1-inch lothario, tried to change the law so polygamy could be introduced at any point in a marriage; Joseph Désiré Mobutu (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) forced citizens to exchange Western first names for African ones; upon his ousting, Liberia’s Samuel Doe demanded an airlift for his Coca-Cola stash. Many of the politicians profiled held typically contradictory views. They espoused socialist principles while they were patronizing and paternalistic toward their people. Taking the long view both geographically and chronologically, Cohen draws connections among countries and pinpoints the long-term impacts of individual leaders in concise statements. For instance, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe “may be Africa’s last true-believing Marxist-Leninist”; Mobutu Sese Seko “straddled two worlds—the traditional African village culture and Western ways.” Taglines heading each chapter exemplify this ability to encapsulate a politician’s legacy, like “Ibrahim Babangida—Nigeria: The General Who Found Democracy Inconvenient.” Although military coups and illegitimate leadership continue, Cohen is optimistic about Africa’s future, particularly since Obama is willing to show the necessary “tough love.” Sixteen black-and-white images, some of which feature Cohen meeting with the leaders, including Leopold Sedar Senghor and Felix Houphouet-Boigny, accompany the text.

This often entertaining survey of recent African political history should interest both scholars and laypeople.    

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9864353-1-7

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Vellum

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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