Richly researched prose that sometimes soars too close to the sun of admiration.

BOBBY KENNEDY

THE MAKING OF A LIBERAL ICON

A former journalist at the Boston Globe returns with a comprehensive, thesis-driven account of the political career of Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968).

Tye (Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero, 2013, etc.) develops the argument that RFK was an evolving human being and politician, a tireless attorney general and senator on whom nothing was lost. The author begins with his association with one McCarthy (Joseph) and ends, more or less, with another (Eugene, whom RFK battled in the 1968 presidential primaries). Relying on countless interviews, including the contributions of RFK’s widow, Tye weaves a compelling story of Bobby’s changes: his growth from the “ruthless” image his political enemies attached to him to the committed humanitarian, the friend of African-Americans, the enemy of poverty, and the outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. We see his devoted support of John F. Kennedy’s various campaigns, his vigorous performance as attorney general, his devastation after JFK’s assassination, his rancorous relationship with Lyndon Johnson. But mostly it’s his changes that interest the author. Not the student or scholar that JFK had been, RFK began to read—after the JFK assassination, he read Aeschylus and listened while he shaved to recordings of Shakespeare plays—and to inform himself deeply about the issues. Not a witty, graceful politician like his older brother, RFK worked hard to develop an effective style. Although Tye is a patent admirer, he wonders about RFK’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe, and he is also unsure about a possible affair with widow Jackie Kennedy. The author chides RFK for such things as slanting his account of the Bay of Pigs, his perhaps excessive pursuit of Jimmy Hoffa, and his early hawkishness on Vietnam. But the contrary image is clear: a good, if not great man; an unspeakable loss.

Richly researched prose that sometimes soars too close to the sun of admiration.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9334-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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