Hoffman makes a solid case for restoring this fine fellow to the history of flight, and aviation buffs will find his...

WINGS OF MADNESS

ALBERTO SANTOS-DUMONT AND THE INVENTION OF FLIGHT

Inventor, humanitarian, lunatic: a pioneer of aviation receives his due in this well-rendered life.

As former Discover editor-in-chief Hoffman (The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, 1998) notes at the outset, Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873–1932) is well remembered, even revered, in his native Brazil, and perhaps in a corner or two of France among the elderly—for it was in Paris, in 1903, that he invented a personal airship in which he tooled around, tethering it like a horse to the gas lamppost in front of his apartment. He also enjoyed hosting “aerial dinner parties” in which the likes of Louis Cartier, the Empress Eugenie, and various Rothschilds would climb atop high chairs to dine on a table suspended from the ceiling by steel cables—a memorable form of entertainment indeed, and perfectly suited to his aims. Paris was most receptive to Santos-Dumont’s odd vision, writes Hoffman, and Santos-Dumont held it in similar regard: “The city had everything going for it, he thought, except that the sky was astonishingly deficient in airships.” Santos-Dumont made his discoveries and blueprints available to all comers, quite unlike the Wright Brothers, his contemporaries and sometime competitors, who, Hoffman asserts, were in aviation for the money. And whereas the Wright Brothers conducted their experiments secretly, Santos-Dumont made a point of staging well-advertised public demonstrations. But things went badly for the inventor when he witnessed the destruction wrought by aircraft in WWI; he committed himself to an asylum in Switzerland that he later tried to escape—“He glued feathers to his arms and strapped on wings powered by a small motor in a backpack”—before removing himself to Brazil, where he committed suicide in the midst of a civil war in which both sides employed bombers, remarking, “I never thought my invention would cause bloodshed between brothers.”

Hoffman makes a solid case for restoring this fine fellow to the history of flight, and aviation buffs will find his spirited study a true pleasure.

Pub Date: June 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-7868-6659-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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