An amazing story and an absorbing read for racing buffs, but those interested in the psychology of this singular athlete...

BLACK MAESTRO

THE EPIC LIFE OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND

Seabiscuit meets Reds.

Jimmy Winkfield’s life was so rich in incident, set against such a vivid tapestry of world-shaking events, that his failure to emerge from his own story as a compelling character seems like a cruel irony. New York Times writer Drape (The Race for the Triple Crown, 2001) has marshaled impressive research and a clear passion for the history of horse racing to tell the remarkable story of Winkfield, who, born one of 17 children to poor black sharecroppers in 1882, went on to win the Kentucky Derby in two consecutive years, become the toast of Moscow (where he was dubbed “The Black Maestro”), fled the Russian Revolution and later, in Paris, the Nazis. The events of Winkfield’s incredible history never fail to captivate—his participation in a drive to save the finest horses of Moscow from the advancing Red Army screams for the Hollywood treatment—but the man himself remains distant, distinguished only by his ambition and uncanny, almost telepathic ability to read horses. Winkfield paid dearly for his single-minded focus, repeatedly sacrificing his family for his zeal to win races; on the other hand, perhaps this tunnel vision accounts for the man’s ability to persist in the face of racism and devastating reversals. Drape compensates for the essential opaqueness of his protagonist with authoritative accounts of the establishment of fabled racetracks such as Belmont and the Louisville Jockey Club, descriptions of Winkfield’s colorful European patrons and a nuanced analysis of the social and cultural realities that the peripatetic jockey faced in America, Russia, Austria and France. But ultimately, Winkfield’s story fails to satisfy the requirements of a hero’s journey; in Drape’s narrative, he seems, despite his great talent, to be a man without qualities, someone to whom things happen, a Zelig on horseback.

An amazing story and an absorbing read for racing buffs, but those interested in the psychology of this singular athlete will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 25, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-053729-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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