Informed by a filial piety throughout, but hardly an unbiased take. (photographs, not seen)

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THE UNDISCOVERED PAUL ROBESON

AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY, 1898-1939

An intimate biography of Paul Robeson, written by his son.

Robeson Jr. (Paul Robeson Jr. Speaks to America, 1993) traces his father’s life from birth through the start of WWII, when the performer and activist all but fell mute. The author’s ranging voice can be defensive, proud, protective, and bell-clear, and while he may not have the thunderous delivery of his father, his words come across as heartfelt. The focus of his study is on the development of his father’s cultural and political views, while considerable attention is paid to the nature of Robeson’s relationship with his wife. Clearly, much of Robeson’s sense of dignity, self-worth, and justice came as a result of growing up the son of a clergyman (his father was pastor of Harlem’s Zion Church)—and from his own harsh experiences as the only black student at Rutgers. His drive to excel as a performer is set within the larger context of his conviction that the African-American cultural and spiritual experience was central to their liberation as a people. But this can hardly be considered late-breaking news—nor, as the author suggests, is the “debunking” of Robeson as a Communist likely to surprise many. While it is undeniable that Robeson admired the Soviet Union for its racial tolerance, as well as its anticolonial and antifascist stances, it now appears that he was more of a dupe than a true believer. Indeed, his silence on the Stalinist purges (to say nothing of the Scottsboro trials) would have made for some interesting speculation on Robeson Jr.’s part—and it is understandable, perhaps, but unfortunate all the same that such speculations never found their way into the author’s account. Robeson Jr. does, however, break some new ground in his discussion of his father’s artistic development, particularly regarding his use of the traditional folk style in spirituals.

Informed by a filial piety throughout, but hardly an unbiased take. (photographs, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-471-24265-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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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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