SECRETS

A WRITER IN THE COLD WAR

In Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Part III, Michael Corleone says of the Mafia, which he is trying to leave, ``Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in.'' Such is the experience of the New Yorker's Brodeur (The Great Power-Line Cover- Up, 1993, etc.), who joined the American intelligence community shortly after WW II. Brodeur retired disgusted with the regular extortion, browbeating, and lack of regard for human dignity in their interrogations of suspected spies in divided postwar Germany. Unfortunately, as Brodeur goes on to uncover the environmental threats that made him famous (asbestos, microwave radiation, etc.), he finds the military-industrial complex cropping up again and again, with old associates turning up to spy on him under the guise of friendship. While much of Secrets concerns Brodeur's discoveries of the scandals about which he has written, he also turns the lens on himself, using his novelist's flair for allegory to include bits about his personal secrets—an older brother whose existence his father had kept from him, his own two-year-old son's death from choking, his broken first marriage. While this information gives an insight into Brodeur that we haven't had before, the writer is still strongest when exposing the powers that be, whether it is CIA involvement in covert operations all over the globe since the Eisenhower administration, giving special attention to those areas we know less about, such as the Congo or Indonesia, or whether it's J. Edgar Hoover's destruction of the life of actress Jean Seberg, who committed suicide over her support of the Black Panthers. Brodeur covers postCold War America with a broad indictment of Justice Department foul-ups in Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Olympic bombing in Atlanta. Sexagenarian Brodeur has produced a retrospective that proves his writing can still pack a punch.

Pub Date: April 29, 1997

ISBN: 0-571-19907-0

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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