A well-made, evenhanded, sometimes cautionary story of business, told with the affection and exasperation of an insider.

FAMOUS NATHAN

A FAMILY SAGA OF CONEY ISLAND, THE AMERICAN DREAM, AND THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT HOT DOG

Everyone’s a wiener in this frank account by a scion of hot dog nobility.

There was no such thing as “fast food,” documentarian Handwerker asserts, before his grandfather Nathan came on the scene, having emigrated from Galicia and made his way somehow to Coney Island. There, in 1916, after proving himself a hard worker and excellent businessman in the service of other immigrants, he founded a fast-food restaurant that would specialize in hot dogs—more specifically, Nathan’s Famous dogs, the namesake of his eatery. In time, writes the author, Nathan’s Famous would be the province of stars like Jacqueline Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, hailed by proto-foodies and the hipster crowd of the day. However, he insists, “the place was never about celebrities. It was democratic through and through.” Nathan paid well, gave generous bonuses, and otherwise took care of his workers, and employees rewarded him with loyal, decadeslong service. That was all very old-fashioned, of course, and things began to turn south when the old ways began to be replaced with the recommendations of advisers, consultants, and bankers. The beginning of the end comes toward the end of Handwerker’s lively book, when Nathan organizes a stock sale that makes the family millions but introduces jealousies, conspiracies, and other headaches. The end of the end—and the lamented end of the Nathan’s Famous dog as the world once knew it—came with the corporatization of the humble wiener, bringing even more money into play but taking most of the simple pleasure out of a visit to the beach. “The Nathan’s Famous is nowadays more of a licensing business,” writes Handwerker, bringing the snack to grocery stores far and wide, if without any of Nathan Handwerker’s dogged attention to every detail.

A well-made, evenhanded, sometimes cautionary story of business, told with the affection and exasperation of an insider.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07454-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 2, 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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