MICHAEL COLLINS

A LIFE

A stirring, comprehensive life of the great Irish patriot. ``If you think you understand what's going on, you're just confused,'' says a graffito current in Belfast. The same is true of Irish history, a sprawling mess of tangled loyalties and shifting allegiances. The life of Michael Collins (18901922) exemplifies the tortured, bloody course of modern Irish history. A kindhearted and warm man who in his heyday cheerfully ordered the assassination of political and military opponents, Collins rose to international prominence as a leader of the Irish independence movement. He had first emerged as a leader during the Easter uprising of 1916, in which hundreds of combatants and civilians died, and which Collins later rued as an enterprise ``that was bungled terribly, costing many a good life.'' Mackay (Burns: A Biography of Robert Burns, 1993) carefully describes Collins's contributions to the Irish armed resistance movement against British rule, first as a guerrilla, and later as commanding general of the national army. Mackay is also good, for the most part, in recounting and analyzing the complex negotiations with England that led to the founding of the Irish Free State after a costly, vicious civil war in which Collins fell victim to a sniper's bullet. Collins's story cannot be told independently of that of his principal opponent, Eamon de Valera, who remarked after Collins's death, ``In the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Collins and it will be recorded at my expense.'' That much is true, but Mackay does not satisfactorily explore de Valera's character and motivations, and he remains a shadowy and somewhat sinister force. Neither does Mackay deal sufficiently with the charge of other historians that de Valera ordered Collins's assassination. He concludes, probably correctly, that the ambush in which Collins died was not intended specifically for him. Despite minor shortcomings, this is the best life of Collins now available, published just in time to coincide with Neil Jordan's film Michael Collins, with Liam Neeson in the lead role.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1997

ISBN: 1-85158-857-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Mainstream/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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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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