A Horatio Alger tale shaded with Shakespearean darkness.



The spectacular rise of Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911), from his humble origins as the son of a Jewish merchant in Hungary to his position as the most powerful journalist and publisher in the world.

Biographer’s Craft editor Morris (The Rose Man of Sing Sing, 2003) begins, uncharacteristically, with a kind of Biography 101 maneuver. In 1909, the virtually blind Pulitzer is aboard his luxurious yacht while a teeth-gnashing Theodore Roosevelt, enraged at Pulitzer’s continuous hostile coverage, has forced the Justice Department to convene grand juries to investigate his tormenter. Then the author swoops back to 1847 and makes readers wait 450 pages to find out what happened. Despite this organizational annoyance, Morris offers a substantial, balanced biography of a complicated, mesmerizing figure who embodied both the American Dream and the American Nightmare. After emigrating to the United States during the Civil War—he served with the Union cavalry but saw little action—Pulitzer struggled through penury and depression. However, his ferocious ambition to excel and prosper sent him to the Mercantile Library in St. Louis, where he studied and learned English and began his career as a reporter on a German-language newspaper. He brawled and worked his way into increasingly responsible positions, served a bit in public office and bought the struggling St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Itching for more exposure, Pulitzer moved to New York City, where he took over the struggling New York World and converted it into a powerhouse. He eventually used his millions to endow the Columbia School of Journalism, the Missouri School of Journalism and the eponymous prizes. Morris ably depicts a volatile, irascible, impulsive, unscrupulous man who betrayed and subverted his brother, verbally abused his wife and children, preached democracy, practiced autocracy and believed fervently that he was never wrong.

A Horatio Alger tale shaded with Shakespearean darkness.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-079869-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2009

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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 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...


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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