CARL SANDBURG

A BIOGRAPHY

Sandburg's long life (1878-1967) illustrates the great American success story: Emerging from an austere Swedish immigrant background, through work, discipline, clean living, and high thinking he achieved fame, love, power, and money, and was identified at his death, at age 89, with the voice of America. This massive authorized biography, from first-time author Niven, is comprehensive, factual, and sentimental, and captures the ``honey'' and ``salt'' that Sandburg found in his life. Starting as a hobo (as he claimed at heart he remained), Sandburg had a varied and demanding literary career: years as a journalist in Chicago, volumes of poetry, the best-selling Lincoln biography, songs, children's stories, novels, platform lectures (at which he excelled), radio and film scripts (The Greatest Story Ever Told), recordings, and the text to The Family of Man—Edward Steichen's renowned photographic exhibit. Committed to the crude, virile, simple, and passionate life of the laboring classes, he nevertheless befriended movie stars (Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe), Presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson), and a glittering array of poets (Eliot, Auden, Pound, Frost, Wallace Stevens), and performed wherever he was invited (on the Milton Berle show, the Library of Congress, and nearly all the major universities in the country). He married into the creative Steichen family, finding in Paula his ideal mate to whom, Niven argues, he remained faithful for nearly 60 years. Of their three daughters, one became a writer, and the other two remained at home with Paula, who raised goats at Connemara, the farm they purchased in North Carolina—now a tourist attraction. For such a voluble man, Sandburg was personally reticent. Niven's study, then, is by necessity a chronicle of events, dates, places, awards, names, reviews, political and literary activities, and poems that she interprets with tact and appreciation. It vindicates Paula's observation to the insecure young poet: ``The life we live is more important than the works we achieve. You are the Achievement.'' (Two eight-page photo inserts—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 22, 1991

ISBN: 0-684-19251-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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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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