A vivid, fascinating revisitation of a time and series of episodes fast receding into history even as their forgotten...

THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN

JIM JONES AND PEOPLES TEMPLE

“Kool-Aid rather than equality is what the rest of the world remembers”—a searing account of what has since become a byword for religious cultism.

That Jim Jones (1931-1978) was a nut case—no term of psychiatric art but still true—was plain for most to see way back before he became infamous for the events of Nov. 18-19, 1978, when he and more than 900 of his followers died in their dystopian colony in the jungles of Guyana. Even so, Bay Area politicians gladly accepted his campaign contributions, some lauding him for his good works of social justice and concern for the poor. Those works and concern were genuine. Guinn (Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, 2013, etc.), who favors hard fact over psychobiographical speculation but indulges in a little of it all the same, notes that there was method to some of Jones’ madness, at least its less lethal manifestations. For instance, his Peoples Temple sermons in San Francisco were wandering, fuguelike, endless affairs, but they “deliberately rambled” to afford Jones the chance to embrace atheists, junkies, Marxists, Black Panthers, and anyone else who showed an interest in his cause, even as he referred to himself on the pulpit as “God, the reincarnation of Christ, or Lenin in a single turn.” Guinn does an excellent job of following Jones to the roots: a rural loner who became a genuine advocate for poor African-Americans, a searcher with a long interest in building a safe harbor for his followers (he even courted North Korea and the Soviet Union as possible homelands), and an all-around strange person with an endless appetite for drugs—“amphetamines and tranquilizers, pills and liquids to provide significant boosts of energy, or else slow down his racing imagination and allow him to rest”—and decidedly un-Christian patterns of behavior.

A vivid, fascinating revisitation of a time and series of episodes fast receding into history even as their forgotten survivors still walk among us.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6382-8

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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