JOHN GLENN

A MEMOIR

Mr. Smith goes to NASA, then Washington, then NASA again. Decorated fighter pilot in two wars, first American to orbit the earth, US Senator, Presidential candidate, oldest man in space, it’s a wonderful life Glenn recalls in this earnest, workmanlike memoir written with Taylor (Healing Lessons, with Sidney Weaver, not reviewed). He clearly intends his amazing journey to affirm the Capraesque virtues of hard work, religion, and patriotism he learned while growing up in New Concord, Ohio. Only occasionally does he toss out hints of the flinty fighter-jock professionalism that, as surely as patriotism, pushed Glenn into space: —You believe you—re the best in the air. . . . If you don—t, you—d better find another line of work.— Glenn still resents the possibility that his anti-philandering warning to fellow Mercury astronauts (recounted with predictably more verve in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff) nixed his chances of becoming the first American in space. His accounts of his campaigns and political life, including a 24-year Senate career, flare only fitfully into life, as when he depicts his friend Bobby Kennedy. The writing achieves liftoff in two instances alone: when Glenn proudly recalls wife Annie’s humor, self-sacrifice, and fortitude in dealing with her stuttering, and when he recounts his epochal space flights. He remembers the frustrating delays that preceded his 1962 Friendship 7 mission, the beauty of sunsets seen from space, the peril posed by a defective heat shield, and the national euphoria on his return to earth. In discussing his Discovery shuttle flight 37 years later, he provides fascinating details on quantum advances achieved in space travel during the interim. Despite the simple, even pedestrian writing, Glenn’s story of how he became a throwback to the heroic age of discovery is enduringly thrilling. (16 pages b&w photographs, not seen) (Book-of- the-Month Club Main Selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-11074-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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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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