A top-notch intellectual biography.

ROGER WILLIAMS AND THE CREATION OF THE AMERICAN SOUL

CHURCH, STATE, AND THE BIRTH OF LIBERTY

Biography of Roger Williams (1603–1683), the 17th-century rebel whose ideas led to the formation of the Rhode Island colony on the American continent.

Popular historian Barry (The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, 2004, etc.) planned to write a book about America during after World War I, with the narrative built around the role of religion in public life. But as he researched the history of church-state relations in England and America, he kept running up against Williams, who, with his wife and other Puritan refugees, sought to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Settling in Massachusetts, however, Williams began to feel a new form of religious persecution. His evolving beliefs about the need to separate church and state, and the related need to respect the liberty of the individual, led to his expulsion from Massachusetts. Williams barely survived a snowy winter in the woods, and his journey for a spot where individual liberty could thrive led him to build a city called Providence, in what would much later become the state of Rhode Island. Barry skillfully demonstrates the physical hardships faced by Williams and his intrepid followers. He also delineates the Williams’ intellectual influences, including jurist Edward Coke and Francis Bacon, the philosopher of science. In Massachusetts, Williams simultaneously won the respect of and clashed with the colony’s governor, John Winthrop, who is more than a foil throughout the biography. Barry compares and contrasts the theological and political thought of Williams and Winthrop to emphasize the remarkably fresh, daring thinking of the Rhode Island founder.

A top-notch intellectual biography.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02305-9

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2011

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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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