A timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.

DEMAGOGUE

THE LIFE AND LONG SHADOW OF SENATOR JOE MCCARTHY

A politically informed life of the crusading right-wing senator who saw a communist in every film studio, university, and military barracks.

Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) began his career in the Senate in 1946 after a surprise victory in Wisconsin over the long-serving Robert La Follette Jr. As Boston-based journalist Tye, the author of biographies of Bobby Kennedy and Satchel Paige, writes, McCarthy ran a bruising campaign of “relentless messaging” as “a kick-’em-in-the-nuts type of candidate.” Decidedly out of his element in the staid confines of the Capitol, he quickly built a reputation, even among his fellow Republicans, as “a gasbag and a pretender.” An undisguised anti-Semite, he carved out a place for himself by teaming up with anti-communist (and Jewish) attorney Roy Cohn and launching a crusade against suspected communists in the government, including, he charged, untold thousands of agents in the State Department and other federal agencies and within the ranks of the armed services. That he did so while frequently hospitalized and treated with “morphine, codeine, Demerol, and other potent narcotics” to battle the alcoholism that would kill him was testimony to his scrappiness. Though notorious for bad judgment—including giving a pass to the Nazis who had murdered American prisoners of war at Malmedy, which, Tye writes, “was just a warm-up act”—McCarthy put the fear in his opponents and browbeat his fellow senators into giving him his lead until he finally took it a step too far in hearings against the U.S. Army. The author concludes his meaty narrative by linking the current occupant of the White House to McCarthy by means of Cohn, “the flesh-and-blood nexus between the senator and the president,” who taught Trump a cardinal lesson: If you say it often enough, loudly enough, and insistently enough, and frighten your listener while you do so, it becomes true—and, if only for a time, a guarantee of success for any tyrant.

A timely examination of a would-be savior whose name remains a byword for demagoguery.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-95972-0

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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