Compelling research within an overwrought presentation.

THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT BE WASHINGTON

ROBERT E. LEE'S CIVIL WAR AND HIS DECISION THAT CHANGED AMERICAN HISTORY

A romantic, rueful portrait of the Confederate general and the fatal decision that shut him out of history.

Former White House speechwriter Horn finds Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) a deeply sympathetic American hero whom fortune seemed to have favored as heir to George Washington, if only Lee had thrown his lot with the Union rather than the South. That is certainly a steep qualifier, yet the author tracks Lee’s rigorous antebellum loyalty to the Union, beginning with his father Harry’s intrepid Revolutionary derring-do as captain of the light dragoons, gaining the nickname “Light-Horse” Lee and the admiration of fellow Virginian Gen. Washington, whose land speculations around the Potomac River spurred Harry to buy 500 acres. Although Harry ended up in debtors prison later in life and abandoned his surviving children from his second marriage in Alexandria, Harry “remained an apostle for Washington’s glory” and coined the memorable phrase at the great man’s funeral: “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Hence, it was surely fate that brought West Point graduate Robert and his rich cousin Mary Custis together: She was the daughter of Washington’s adopted son who had built the showy Arlington mansion atop Alexandria’s hills overlooking the capital city. Subsequently, Arlington would be the only home in Virginia the peripatetic soldier Robert would know until the Civil War, and with the death of his in-laws and the growing debility of his spoiled wife, he was entrusted with its care. In somewhat melodramatic fashion, Horn builds Lee’s great tragedy around this idyllic Arlington inheritance, peopled by slaves he couldn’t quite free, according to his father-in-law’s dying wishes. Lee’s tortured decision to resign from the Union Army rather than fight against his home state resulted in the loss of his homestead; ironically, it would become a national cemetery for the young men he sent to their deaths.

Compelling research within an overwrought presentation.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1476748566

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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