NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST

A BIOGRAPHY

The Confederate cavalry commander, as conspicuous for his racism as for his military prowess, receives a biography that emphasizes his reprehensible exploits as slave trader and founding father of the Ku Klux Klan. Robert E. Lee supposedly called Forrest ``the most extraordinary man the Civil War produced.'' But Chicago Tribune newsman Hurst offers the first recent portrait that pays as much attention to Forrest's distasteful activities before and after the war as to his undeniable martial genius. Better written than Brian Steel Wills's A Battle from the Start (1992), this new book spends less time on Forrest's extraordinary career as a soldier—he was the only man on either side who went from private to lieutenant general—and gives equal weight to his rise from raw frontier poverty to self-made wealth in land and slaves, his prewar civic activities as a Memphis alderman, and his postwar career as an icon of the unreconstructed South. But the good news about Hurst's work- -his reluctance to substitute speculation for fact in the name of psychobiography—is also the bad news: The reader is left wondering about the sources of Forrest's undeniable penchant for personal violence. What other general was even reported to have killed 30 enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, in addition to shooting his own men caught running from battle? Hurst's hands-off attitude also results in an absence of strong conclusions about Forrest's conduct when the evidence is conflicting (did Forrest encourage or prevent the notorious massacre of Union, particularly black, soldiers at Fort Pillow? Hurst thinks he may have done both). Readers wanting military history should pass over both recent biographies for Edwin Bearss's Forrest at Brice's Cross Roads (1991). Hurst's is the best all-around recent life of Forrest, but we still await a truly insightful study of this complex man. Since Richard Ellmann is dead and Walter Jackson Bate is retired, how about it, Stephen Sears?

Pub Date: June 6, 1993

ISBN: 0-394-55189-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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