The answer is yes, and in more ways than one. An eye-opening book and a pleasure to read.

COSBY

HIS LIFE AND TIMES

Readable, thoughtful life of the brilliant comedian and entrepreneur.

Later generations of comedians have made a good living from portraying Bill Cosby (b. 1937) as a milquetoast unwilling to court controversy. They’re unfounded, suggests Whitaker (My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir, 2011), who was the first African-American editor of Newsweek. Cosby may incline toward a kind of meritocratic conservatism, but when he was at the peak of his game, he was always bending and breaking the rules, “stubbornly dispensing with all of the usual ingredients.” He was also a pioneer, the Jackie Robinson of popular entertainment, the first black comedian to find true superstardom among a predominantly white audience, using that renown to subtly advance the civil rights agenda—the operative word being subtly, for vehicles such as the 1960s TV hit series I Spy were phenomenally influential in simply depicting the possibility of black and white people working together and enjoying friendship without reference to race at all. Nonconfrontational but earnest, Cosby also made a fortune for NBC—so much so, as Whitaker chronicles, that at one point, Cosby came close to buying the network. The author traces Cosby’s rise, drawing on elements of his own life for comedic material; as Whitaker charts Cosby’s growing success and elevation to one of the richest men in show business, he turns up episodes in which the eminently avuncular, cardigan-wearing comic exercised a steeliness and rough temper that “could flare suddenly and sometimes violently, particularly when he thought he was being disrespected.” (For an example of Cosby’s brawling capacities, see his encounter with mild-mannered liberal icon Tommy Smothers, Whitaker’s account of which is worth the book’s cover price alone.) Whitaker closes this lucid, often entertaining biography with a pointed look at the oft-mooted question: Did Bill Cosby make Barack Obama possible?

The answer is yes, and in more ways than one. An eye-opening book and a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9797-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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