A solid contribution to the history of the early republic.

THE MEASURE OF MANHATTAN

THE TUMULTUOUS CAREER AND SURPRISING LEGACY OF JOHN RANDEL, JR., CARTOGRAPHER, SURVEYOR, INVENTOR

Sturdy biography of an important, long-overlooked figure in the early development of the United States.

“His was the era of laying lines of the land—lines for communication, for transportation and goods; lines for establishing nationhood, statehood, and individual ownership.” So writes Holloway (Science and Environmental Journalism/Columbia Univ.) of John Randel (1787–1865), a master surveyor who improved on the tools of his trade while taking on some of the toughest surveying challenges of his time, the most important of them being the imposition of a grid system on the then-rugged topography of Manhattan. Frederick Law Olmsted is better known for his contributions to the making of Central Park, but Randel figures there with a surveyor’s bolt set in rock; he also figures across the island for leveling hills and filling earth, among the earliest efforts at terraforming. A lover of math and data, Randel went on to work in the nascent railroad industry and to lay out canals between the Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay, though for various reasons his work was less successful than on Manhattan. Holloway serves up a suitably vigorous life of the man, who was always on the go, and she does not assume that readers will share his interests and knowledge—she provides useful little lessons in geometry, in how geosynchronous positioning works, and the like. There is much to like in this book and its now-restored subject.

A solid contribution to the history of the early republic.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-07125-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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