A split decision, then, though lawyers-in-training and close students of current events should find value in Cochran’s pages.

A LAWYER’S LIFE

The most well-known African-American attorney (and perhaps most well-known attorney, period) of our time spins tales of courtroom drama, racism, and the good life.

Many readers, it seems fair to say, will want the answer to just one question: “Did O.J. do it?” Cochran, the captain of O.J. Simpson’s Dream Team, provides a suitably elusive answer in several parts, which boils down to this: Simpson always insisted, in privileged conversations with his attorney, that he didn’t; the jury found Simpson innocent of the charge of murdering his wife because the state did not prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt; a neo-Nazi cop (who, Cochran alleges, though apparently a “reasonably articulate professional, in fact . . . was a lying thug”) was after Simpson for his own reasons. Granted, Cochran writes of the post-verdict Simpson, “it is fair to say that some of the things he’s said and some of the schemes in which he’s gotten involved were probably not as well thought out as they should have been”—well, that’s no reason to torment the guy or suspect him of doing evil. On O.J., though, Cochran offers less meaningful detail than he does on the celebrated cases of Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima, along with many other less widely reported trials, even though it was l’affaire Simpson that made him a household name—and apparently added greatly to his wealth, even if Cochran has trouble deciding from one page to the next whether he’s rich or merely comfortable. This hurried memoir may frustrate readers seeking insight into Cochran’s inarguably brilliant legal mind, as there is little here on his education, influences, and formative experiences. Still, Cochran does give some accounting of his working methods, which emphasize “preparation, preparation, and then additional preparation.” As well, he ably explores the depth of racism in American society and the consequent difficulty of African Americans and members of other minority groups to find justice. In doing so, Cochran rises to impassioned eloquence—and Americans who do not know firsthand the truth of his arguments may well feel ashamed after reading this.

A split decision, then, though lawyers-in-training and close students of current events should find value in Cochran’s pages.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-27826-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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