An admiring biography of a neglected figure in America's mid- 20th-century rise to global ascendancy. A scholarly study of the extraordinary career of David K.E. Bruce (18981977) would be welcome. Lankford, regrettably, has chosen to write a celebratory, one-dimensional study. A good storyteller, the author ladles out admiration for each of the privileged worlds that young Bruce inhabited: Born into the landed gentry of segregated Virginia, growing up in Gilded Age Baltimore, graduating from Princeton. As an officer in the postWW I army, Bruce developed a taste for the glories of war, sampled at a safe distance from any action. After marrying Ailsa Mellon, one of the wealthiest women in the world, Bruce became a confidant and art adviser to his father-in-law Andrew Mellon, one of the wealthiest men in the world. Lankford's greatest enthusiasm is reserved for Bruce's central role in building up the new postWW II American empire, based on free trade, global military interventionism, and a worldwide covert operations network. Like so many other Cold War power brokers, Bruce began a diplomatic career through his friendship with William ``Wild Bill'' Donovan, the founder of the OSS (later the CIA). Contacts in the intelligence community led to diplomatic appointments, including stints as ambassador to France and Britain, and a special mission to China. ``Tall, erect, gray- templed, distinguished in appearence, he was the model image of an ambassador,'' Lankford asserts. And his aristocratic indifference to the common people served him well in the rarefied world of old- boy networks in the intelligence and diplomatic communities. Bruce might have been, in his personal tastes and demeanor, the last American aristocrat (or at least the last to act as if governing was his by right), but he is far from being the last privileged American to step effortlessly from inherited wealth to immense political power.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-51501-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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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 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...


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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