DISPATCHES

"Vietnam, man. Bomb 'em and feed 'em, bomb 'em and feed 'em"—a chopper pilot summarized the war strategy for Herr. And with Herr's belated volume of unfiled dispatches from the front, the awareness grows that this war—like no other since WWI—continues to produce a rich lode of literature, part litany, part exorcism, part macabre nostalgia. Like his buddies Scan Flynn and Dana Stone—later MIA in Cambodia—Herr was a correspondent with a license to see more than just a single mud hole. Using the "Airmobility" of the helicopters, he hopscotched the country from Hue to Danang to the DMZ to Saigon ("the subtle city war inside the war" where corruption stank like musk oil). He was at Hue during the battle that reduced the old Imperial capital to rubble, at Khe Sanh when the grunts' expectations of another Alamo were running high. Between mortar shells and body bags he reflected on the mysterious smiles of the blank-eyed soldiers, smiles that said "I'll tell you why I'm smiling, but it will make you crazy." And Herr, who is full of twisted, hidden ironies, is all wrapped up in the craziness of the war, enthralled by the limitless "variety of deaths and mutilations the war offered," and by the awful "cheer-crazed" language of the official communiques which always reported spirits high, weather fine. He knew, and his buddies knew, that this kind of reportage was "psychotic vaudeville"—though not for a moment would he deny the harsh glamour of being a working war correspondent. He came home eventually, to do the "Survivor Shuffle" and miss Vietnam acutely, and he writes with a fierce, tight insistence that never lets go.

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Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1977

ISBN: 0679735259

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1977

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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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