A welcome portrait, one from which the famed gadfly’s admirers and foes alike have much to learn.

NADER

CRUSADER, SPOILER, ICON

An eyes-wide-open portrait of “an immensely polarizing figure” whose enemies—Democratic Party loyalists, Big Three stockholders, and Corvair enthusiasts among them—are legion.

Ralph Nader, writes Martin (Greenspan: The Man Behind the Money, 2000), has been a podium-pounding contrarian since at least his student days at Princeton, where he once almost ran over Albert Einstein—and, Martin gamely hints, had his first auto-safety epiphany. As a young Washington-based attorney and sometime freelance journalist, Nader gained early fame for his comprehensive attack on the auto industry, Unsafe at Any Speed, and for a well-coordinated campaign to reform auto-safety laws. That first crusade, Martin writes, “continues to pay dividends”: as many as a million lives may have been saved thanks to Nader’s single-minded efforts. Using the proceeds from his successful suits against Detroit carmakers to fund the consumer-advocacy law group informally dubbed “Nader’s Raiders,” Nader went on to incur the wrath of a host of enemies and to involve himself in dozens of causes, convinced, as he said, both that the “law was an instrument of justice” and that “I was not going to be sharp by becoming narrow.” After spending years “wandering in the policy-wonk desert,” Nader also became increasingly convinced that the major political parties were hopelessly corrupt. He therefore made three quixotic bids for the presidency to gain a forum for his many-sided assault on the status quo, the most recent in 2000, when he ran on the Green Party ticket (without, Martin observes, ever bothering to become a member). That effort unquestionably lost Al Gore the presidency, Martin writes, even though Nader insisted after the fact that Gore defeated himself—and prophesied during the campaign that “George Bush is so dumb, Gore will beat him by twenty points.” Though anathema in a thousand quarters, Nader isn’t through yet.

A welcome portrait, one from which the famed gadfly’s admirers and foes alike have much to learn.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7382-0563-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Perseus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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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