An intriguing account of Button’s troubled life, told with skill and grace.

SAVAGE

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JEMMY BUTTON

Imaginative reconstruction of a lost but strangely influential episode in the history of British colonialism.

In 1830, Robert FitzRoy, the new captain of the Beagle, sailed his craft into a natural harbor off Tierra del Fuego, a place of “appalling weather conditions” and “cruel geography.” There they encountered a few weather-beaten natives, a few of whom were commandeered and taken away as specimens for scientists to ponder. Some of these unfortunates died (of smallpox) in passage or soon after landing in England, but one who survived was a young man called Jemmy Button, who was poked and prodded for about a year and then taken back to his homeland when FitzRoy again pointed the Beagle toward South America. Aboard ship with Button this time was the newly hired naturalist Charles Darwin, who saw in the young man evidence of what the ancestors of humankind, “naked and bedaubed with paint . . . their mouths frothed with excitement,” must have been like. Hazlewood hazards that Darwin’s brief encounter with Button influenced the budding scientist’s thoughts on evolution—and Darwin himself wrote, years later, that he would “rather have been descended from [a] heroic little monkey” than from “a savage who delights to torture his enemies.” Having seen the far shores and learned a little English, Button was out of place in his homeland—a place that Hazlewood suggests was indeed not innocent of cannibalism and torture. He acted as something of an unwilling point man for missionaries sent to Christianize his unwilling compatriots, most of whom died in any event of disease and, later, of gunfire from gold-seeking strangers—murders which Button may well have avenged in the slaughter of an unfortunate party of British sailors.

An intriguing account of Button’s troubled life, told with skill and grace.

Pub Date: June 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-25213-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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