FANTASTIC

THE LIFE OF ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER

Skin-deep treatment of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise and rise.

Kennedy family biographer Leamer (Sons of Camelot, 2004, etc.) re-creates their most famous in-law as a shallow and aggrandizing man—pretty much like the persona Schwarzenegger has already created for himself. While a boy growing up in Austria, Arnold was overshadowed by a winsome brother, nurtured by a protective mother and beaten by a brutish father. Admittedly not a reader, the youngster trained his body into enormity so he could do one thing: leave Austria and become a star. Schwarzenegger achieved his goal and shrewdly conquered the worlds of bodybuilding and feature films before capitalizing on the opportunity to live out his dream of American civic duty. Leamer halfheartedly dresses this cocky suprahuman in an underdog’s cloak of self-deprecation, shilling anecdotes about Schwarzenegger’s crippling need to be admired. Entertaining if farcical tales about Conan the Barbarian and Terminator soon reach the same editorialized conclusion: that it was Schwarzenegger alone who made these movies successful. Leamer dispenses casual nods to hot topics like Arnold’s steroid use and aggressive womanizing, but each time he’s exonerated with a shrug. Meanwhile, the author’s assurances that his subject is not anti-Semitic, which take Arnold’s crush on a married Jewish woman, and dealings with Jewish associates as enough to disprove prejudice, similarly duck an issue that could have made this an interesting consideration of contemporary immigrant success. Leamer’s refusal to write with a critical eye means that Schwarzenegger’s true self remains unknown. Stories from those who do know him fumble inelegantly across the page without finesse, as do superfluous nuggets concerning political rivals. The author concedes that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who cannot be told the truth. It’s a moment of rare candor in a biography that mostly settles for skimming the surface.

Fantastic? Hardly.

Pub Date: June 7, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33338-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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