An elegant, affecting work that offers fresh insights on a much-mythologized president.

HIS FINAL BATTLE

THE LAST MONTHS OF FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT

Eloquently exposing the open secret of Franklin Roosevelt’s advanced heart disease.

Was FDR’s decision to run for an unprecedented fourth term while in a state of such disastrous health foolhardy or inevitable? In this meticulous psychological study delineating FDR’s crucial final acts as president—e.g., meeting Joseph Stalin for the first time in Tehran in November 1943, articulating the Four Freedoms, framing the United Nations, advocating for a democratic government in Poland, and winning the war—former New York Times executive editor and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Lelyveld (Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, 2011, etc.) portrays a melancholy, ailing president contemplating a fourth term as if “cornered” and resigned to seeing no alternative. The author asserts that FDR allowed himself to dream of resigning in his fourth term, yet there was simply too much at stake: the country would not let him go. The weight of the stress, however, was literally killing him, and despite the “roseate prognoses and testimonials” by his longtime physician, Ross McIntire, Lelyveld asserts that FDR “knew more than he let on” about the state of his heart, citing confidante Daisy Suckley’s frank acknowledgements in her long-hidden diary. The truth would be confirmed by Navy cardiologist Howard G. Bruenn, who was finally summoned by FDR’s worried daughter, Anna, in 1944. The author expertly puts together a string of poignant clues to FDR’s last acts, as if he were acknowledging the need for a proper successor in choosing Harry Truman for a running mate, thereby jettisoning the problematic Henry Wallace, and contemplating his own mortality by seeking out his former flame, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, in several tender elegiac meetings, particularly his last dying day. In the end, Roosevelt was pondering the example of his hero, Woodrow Wilson.

An elegant, affecting work that offers fresh insights on a much-mythologized president.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35079-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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