A brief, affectionate history of Singapore that provides a compelling but incomplete and surprisingly discursive portrait of...

SINGAPORE

UNLIKELY POWER

The history of Singapore’s improbable path to becoming an economically powerful city-state.

Perry (Facing West: Americans and the Opening of the Pacific, 1995, etc.), a former professor of maritime history, offers an admiring portrait of Singapore, a tiny island nation that has overcome enormous obstacles in order to wield global influence from its perch on the commercially and strategically vital Melaka Straits. The author’s first item on the agenda is to debunk the myth of “mudflatism,” the idea that “Singapore was entirely a nineteenth-century creation rising from the marshes, virtually nothing.” Those who perpetuate that myth are “unmindful of a past reaching back seven hundred years in all.” Still, Perry acknowledges that Singapore’s founding by the legendary Thomas Stamford Raffles as a British port established the unique constraints that would shape the maritime city-state’s history. Because the island “could boast no resources not readily available elsewhere,” sea-borne trade became Singapore’s lifeline and raison d'être. “By the end of the nineteenth century,” writes the author, “maritime activities and networks defined Singapore’s economic, social, and cultural space.” Perry often takes an outside-in approach, focusing on the foreign powers that played such a dominant role in Singapore’s history. While he is undoubtedly correct that Singapore’s unique circumstances often left it “more acted upon than actor,” his big-picture approach sometimes neglects the lives and contributions of Singaporeans in favor of lengthy discussions on topics such as European rivalries, canal building, and developments in shipping technology. Post-independence, Perry’s narrative focuses more on Singaporean initiative, in particular on the technocratic brilliance of Lee Kuan Yew and his peers among Singapore’s ruling elite. However, the author’s praise for Singapore’s miraculous economic transformation is scarcely tempered by concern over human rights abuses, for example. In his enthusiasm for Singapore’s underdog successes, Perry comes uncomfortably close to triumphalism.

A brief, affectionate history of Singapore that provides a compelling but incomplete and surprisingly discursive portrait of the island nation.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-046950-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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