Generally sympathetic to its subject and well-written but to be consulted only after William Kahrl’s Water and Power (1982)...

WATER TO THE ANGELS

WILLIAM MULHOLLAND, HIS MONUMENTAL AQUEDUCT, AND THE RISE OF LOS ANGELES

Dutiful story of a man who, not having finished high school, “let alone set foot in an engineering class,” designed a metropolitan water system that is still in use today.

Irish immigrant William Mulholland’s (1855-1935) construction of a water grid centered on the Los Angeles River, which captivated him when he arrived in 1877, inarguably made the LA of today possible, for better or worse; more than 10 million citizens depend on it to some degree or another. Yet Mulholland was nearly condemned to oblivion after a dam collapsed in 1928 in the mountains above the city, an event considered by some to be the worst engineering failure in American history. Standiford (Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War, 2012, etc.) examines the events of Mulholland’s life up to that disaster, praising him for squarely accepting responsibility: “Devastated by the event that refashioned him from civic hero to villain in an eye-blink, Mulholland would at one point confide to a reporter, ‘I envy those who were killed.’ ” There are better books on the politics and history of water in Southern California, and sometimes it seems that Standiford is generating words just to fill space as he plumbs his topic—e.g., turning Edward Abbey’s stirring aperçu on the visual splendor of the West into the lame observation, “in the elemental landscape of Jawbone Canyon, no such problem presents itself.” The portrait that emerges is of a determined public servant who was in the right place at the right time, demonized by later generations for his role in removing water from other parts of California in order to shape a metropolis. The added value of Standiford’s book largely comes in its closing pages, in which he examines the now-canonical script for Chinatown and separates history from fiction.

Generally sympathetic to its subject and well-written but to be consulted only after William Kahrl’s Water and Power (1982) and Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert (1986).

Pub Date: March 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-225142-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more