A witty, edifying treatise.

ON ROYALTY

A VERY POLITE INQUIRY INTO SOME STRANGELY RELATED FAMILIES

Popular BBC broadcaster Paxman (The English, 2000, etc.) examines the monarchy’s relevance to contemporary British society.

Best known for his confrontational interviews on current-affairs program Newsnight, Paxman keeps his scabrous side firmly in check, taking a relaxed, even humorous approach here. The author quickly establishes his affinity for the oft-troubled fortunes of Britain’s royals with amusing anecdotes about a visit to Sandringham (quizzed about the purpose of the monarchy, Prince Charles quipped, “we’re a soap opera”), the BBC’s archaic preparations for the Queen Mother’s death and a bizarre encounter with Princess Diana. The author casts his net wide as he sets about his task, demonstrating a vast knowledge of all things royal as he darts back and forth in time, linking various events from the past to those of the present. The bookish, chain-smoking Queen of Denmark (Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter) and the sometimes controversial Prince Philip are two of the people interviewed, and the author draws insightful and occasionally humorous jabs from both. Philip rails against the tabloids and even seems agitated that his wife (whom he refers to as “the queen”) reads “every bloody paper she can lay her hands on.” Paxman keeps a generous distance from his subjects for most of the book, reserving his personal opinions for the concluding chapter, which conveys his belief that the royal family will be around for quite some time. Using the surge of interest in Diana’s funeral as a springboard, he points out the inexorable grip the monarchy maintains on our collective imaginations, notes the impracticality of any attempt to break up the royal family and adds interesting notes on their historical and mythological value.

A witty, edifying treatise.

Pub Date: June 30, 2007

ISBN: 1-58648-491-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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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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