All in all, a well-paced, nuanced contribution to the history of exploration.

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COOK

THE EXTRAORDINARY VOYAGES OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

A richly detailed life of perhaps the greatest maritime explorer in history.

A partial life, that is: Thomas (Anthropology/Univ. of London; Colonialism’s Culture, not reviewed) shuns the “grandfather to grave” course of most biographies, beginning his study of the Yorkshire-born James Cook as he neared 40. By 1767, Cook was already an accomplished sailor and leader, driven by a keen desire to put points and lines on maps where none had existed before. As a surveyor, Thomas shows, Cook was nearly without peer, and his sea and coastal charts “produced a new kind of accurate knowledge that suddenly showed up his predecessors’ efforts for their amateurishness.” As Cook voyaged ever farther from England, now aboard the Endeavour, he added ethnographic skills to his quiver, thanks in some measure to the influence of his shipmate Joseph Banks; Thomas considers both to have been “embodiments of Enlightenment inquiry,” and both took care to record cultural, geographical, and natural-historical details in their journals and logs, even if they sometimes failed to record incidents that did not reflect well on the captain. We can only guess at those incidents, but some must have involved the deaths of native peoples. Though Cook had taken an interest in and even praised the lifeways of some of the indigenous peoples he encountered, he apparently had no qualms about raising his pistol; as Thomas notes, commenting on an account by a contemporary writer, “Cook’s excuse was, in effect, that you had to be there to see why this occurred . . . which was to beg the questions of whether civilized men were only civilized in civilized places, and whether their travels took them into situations beyond the scope of ethical and moral principles that were surely supposed to apply universally.” Thomas does well to sound that heart-of-darkness theme, which turns up at points throughout his narrative as Cook becomes ever gloomier about the enterprise of command and ever quicker to assert European, and his own, authority—behavior that surely contributed to his death at the hands of unimpressed Hawaiians in 1779.

All in all, a well-paced, nuanced contribution to the history of exploration.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8027-1412-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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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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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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