The book will be judged, fairly or unfairly, by what comes next. If Clapper’s revelations undermine the support of an...

FACTS AND FEARS

HARD TRUTHS FROM A LIFE IN INTELLIGENCE

As the nation’s top spymaster, former Director of National Intelligence Clapper vowed never to publish a memoir. Then he became enraged at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign on behalf of Donald Trump, and he changed his mind about writing a book.

A few weeks before Trump’s surprise victory, Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a public warning about Russian dirty tricks meant to influence American voters. The author felt dismay when the vast majority of Americans apparently paid no attention to the warning. In the introduction, Clapper states unambiguously that following the election, “the CIA and the FBI continued to uncover evidence of preelection Russian propaganda, all intended to undermine [Hillary] Clinton and promote Trump, and the Intelligence Community continued to find indications of Russian cyber operations to interfere with the election.” The author then devotes the next 300 pages to the trajectory of his career, during which he served Republican and Democratic presidents from positions inside and outside the military. From 2010 to 2017, Clapper served as President Barack Obama’s nonpartisan senior intelligence adviser. As the author’s chronicle of his spy management unfolds chronologically, he offers insights into U.S. relations with North and South Korea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, and, of course, Russia, with an emphasis on Vladimir Putin’s determination to damage the U.S. in any way short of nuclear warfare. In the final quarter of the text, Clapper demonstrates his increasing exasperation with the current president’s lies, inability to deal rationally with other nations, utter lack of respect for worthy diplomats and politicians, and, especially, his cozying up to Putin.

The book will be judged, fairly or unfairly, by what comes next. If Clapper’s revelations undermine the support of an irrational Trump among voters, he will consider the book a success, however limited. However, if the book fails to contribute to the halting of Trump’s widespread corruption, Clapper makes clear he will do whatever he can from his retirement to protect what is left of American democracy.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-55864-4

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2018

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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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