An utterly compelling chronicle from a master scholar and clear writer.

MY WAR CRIMINAL

PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS WITH AN ARCHITECT OF GENOCIDE

This scrupulously researched work by a skilled interviewer of “imprisoned perpetrators” focuses on the making of the genocidal Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić.

Between 2014 and 2016, Stern (Global Studies/Boston Univ.; Denial: A Memoir of Terror, 2010, etc.) held a dozen conversations with the war criminal, now imprisoned for life in the Scheveningen Prison in The Hague. Though interviews with such high-profile war criminals had not been sanctioned by the International Criminal Tribunal—the first international war crimes court established since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials at the end of World War II—the ICT ultimately agreed, acknowledging Stern’s meticulous methods and hoping her research might yield valuable information about Karadžić’s motives. Karadžić came to power as the former Yugoslavia’s ethnically divided federations began to declare their independence in the early 1990s, and the once-dominant Serbs of Bosnia, in the minority to the majority Bosnian Muslims, feared (or were incited to fear) that they were losing their status and privileges. The culmination of fear and hate erupted in the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995, when the Bosnian Serb army captured the town and executed thousands of surrendered men and boys. Appearing as a cultured, intelligent “gentleman,” Karadžić created a whole other entity as an “energy healer” and poet while on the lam for 12 years, and he believed that he was a hero for his beleaguered people. Stern’s account of their interviews is a riveting battle of the wills, as the author chronicles her battle against Karadžić’s manipulation and attempts to see some remorse. Yet he was unrepentant in protecting “his” people from exaggerated threats and demographic changes, and he used fearmongering tactics that Stern recognizes as being currently practiced by the U.S. government. Ultimately, the author provides a subtle, powerful illustration of terror that resonates today, especially regarding the resurgent white supremacist movement. The deep, extensive footnotes and detailed timeline attest to Stern’s meticulous research.

An utterly compelling chronicle from a master scholar and clear writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-088955-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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