A nice complement, if sometimes only a footnote, to David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback.

I ROSE LIKE A ROCKET

THE POLITICAL EDUCATION OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT

A reasonably good take on Teddy Roosevelt’s coming of age as a political leader.

For Howard Dean’s spin-control people, this study by Albany Times Union staff writer Grondahl comes too late; they might have profitably pointed to the great TR’s example of what happens when great joy meets other fiery emotions, as when he shot a buffalo on the North Dakota plains in 1883: “The kill triggered an orgiastic outburst. Roosevelt hollered and hopped around the dead beast in a primal dance. He shrieked and bellowed in a crazed celebration of the blood sport.” TR seems not to have considered such moments unusual, and certainly nothing to apologize for; indeed, he lived by a chivalric code much of which was of his own making, which set him apart from other politicos of the time. One plank in his platform was not to back down before bullying, and so, Grondahl writes, when TR first entered the New York legislature he sought out the local Tammany enforcer, a notorious hector, and threatened, “I’ll kick you, I’ll bite you, I’ll kick you in the balls. I’ll do anything to you—you’d better leave me alone.” He meant it, too. Most of Roosevelt’s experiences in Albany, Grondahl holds, were less dramatic, but they constituted a political education that would serve TR well in the White House, especially when he sought to break the power of the great financial and commercial trusts. As a legislator and governor, TR had already scrapped with the likes of Jay Gould and Tammany, but he had to unlearn some of his tactics on battling for higher office: “In the run-up to the Republican National Convention, Roosevelt reversed his take-no-prisoners approach and tried to play it safe and reserve political capital.” That did not suit his nature, however, and Roosevelt reverted once in the White House to that hunter on the plains, glad to draw blood. But that’s a story for another volume.

A nice complement, if sometimes only a footnote, to David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback.

Pub Date: June 10, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-2731-X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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