A radical new biography that should interest historians, military strategists, and psychologists.

PATTON

THE MADNESS BEHIND THE GENIUS

A revisionist history of Gen. George S. Patton that attributes his famously erratic behavior to a personality disorder.

Patton is almost universally regarded as an American war hero and a genius tactician, but less well-known, according to debut author Sudmeier, were the unmistakable signs of his mental instability. The author—the award-winning screenwriter of the 2006 docudrama Patton’s Secret Mission—considers what he believes to be ample evidence that Patton had a diagnosable, psychological affliction. The general was capable of extraordinary cruelty, he says, and once boasted to his wife that he killed another American soldier with a shovel. Sudmeier also asserts that Patton was a rabid racist with little empathy, in general—he even treated animals with cruel indifference. Although he was a brave and gifted leader, he was also capable of terrible mistakes in judgment, apparently due to a vainglorious desire for recognition; in fact, Patton was so obsessed with his own legacy, the author says, that he sometimes recklessly led his men to certain death. Sudmeier meticulously reconsiders the general’s finest moments, such as the 1944 liberation of Bastogne, Belgium, and his worst disasters, such as the infamous 1945 raid of a prisoner-of-war camp in Hammelburg, Germany. Ultimately, the author concludes that Patton suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, demonstrated by a volatile combination of a superiority complex and fragile ego. Sudmeier also assesses Patton’s private life, characterizing him as a relentless social climber and a largely dysfunctional parent. Especially for such a brief study, this is impressively comprehensive, including detailed analysis of Patton’s personal and professional relationships as well as his effectiveness as a general. As a result, this portrait is neither a hagiography nor a hit job—the author does give Patton his due for all of his many virtues as a soldier, but he also punctures the mystique of invincibility that’s often seen in fawning biographies of the man. Of course, a psychological diagnosis of any historical figure must be taken with a grain of salt, and some of Sudmeier’s conclusions are more speculative than empirical. Nonetheless, this is a thorough, insightful account.

A radical new biography that should interest historians, military strategists, and psychologists.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5395-7795-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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