Will the partnership prevail? Stay tuned, but hope for the best—for, they warn, “[i]f urgent steps are not taken to rein in...

THE PARTNERSHIP

FIVE COLD WARRIORS AND THEIR QUEST TO BAN THE BOMB

Timely portrait of an alliance, seemingly unlikely, of former Cold War mavens now committed to nuclear disarmament.

Only last month did the news come that China’s nuclear arsenal is likely much more extensive than anyone had guessed. Russia is a constant worry, not least because its conventional forces are so reduced that the temptation is ever greater to rely on nuclear solutions in the event of an attack, real or perceived. But the heroes of former New York Times reporter and editor Taubman’s (Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage, 2003, etc.) tale are less worried about these major players on the world stage than about the disaffected, shadowy figures from the margins—al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps even the narcotraficantes. At the center of the group is nuclear strategist Sidney Drell; around him are Sam Nunn, at one time “the Senate’s leading authority on Cold War military matters”; George Shultz and William Perry. Closing up the five—and this may give Christopher Hitchens fits—is Henry Kissinger, that dark master of realpolitik, who more than any of the other figures maneuvered and positioned himself for best advantage when, early in 2011, the quintet signed off on a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece calling for the effective abolition of nuclear arms. Kissinger’s position, it seems, is still nuanced—read: subject to revocation—but the mere fact that these five quite different players, whose names show up in the indexes of every history of the Cold War, came together on the point was significant enough. However, as Taubman continues, there’s more to the story. The great value of his book is twofold. First, the author gives a lucid summary of the long, shifting struggle between East and West and the contributions each of the five made to it, for better or worse. (See Robert De Niro’s film The Good Shepherd for worse.) Second, Taubman shows how influential these old Cold Warriors have been in shaping the policy of the present administration and its “ambitious nuclear agenda,” providing a useful look at the way in which such decisions are made and shaped.

Will the partnership prevail? Stay tuned, but hope for the best—for, they warn, “[i]f urgent steps are not taken to rein in nuclear weapons...a catastrophic attack is virtually inevitable.”

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-174400-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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