Excerpts from Lincoln’s autobiographical writings, some quite brief, selected, edited, and annotated by Zall, a senior researcher at the Huntington Library. Zall wants these passages culled from letters and other sources to provide “a story of Lincoln’s life in his own words.” Unfortunately, the 16th president was not loquacious, certainly not about his quotidian life, so he reveals little. As Zall admits, “He was not the kind of person to bare his soul in public or in private.” We do learn to share the young Lincoln’s excitement when he earns his first dollar; we cringe as he consents to sew shut the eyes of some intransigent hogs; we laugh at some of the doggerel he composes about his rural background (“When first my father settled here, / “Twas then the frontier line: / The panther’s scream, filled night with fear / And bears preyed on the swine”); we admire him for his stand on slavery (the sight of slaves was “a continual torment to me,” he notes); and we tremble with the dramatic irony of a vision he has in late 1860: in the mirror he sees a faint second image alongside the first, and his wife believes it’s a dark harbinger of his death. Zall reminds us that Lincoln won only 40 percent of the popular vote in 1860, that he freed slaves only in the states that had seceded, that he was in some ways a reluctant candidate. What does not emerge in these excerpts, however, is any sense of why Lincoln came to be who he was. Why did he not simply remain a farmer? Why did he struggle so hard to educate himself? Why did he want to enter politics? Whence his fierce humanism? Abe may have been honest, but about his own character, he was none too candid. A collection that casts a strong light, but so much of it falls behind the president that shadows obscure his face—and much of his character.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8131-2141-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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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 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...


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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