For years now, Brookhiser has helped bring the Founders back to life, precisely Lincoln’s purpose as the president...

FOUNDERS' SON

A LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

An author who specializes in biographies of the Founders looks at their influence on our 16th president.

Only two of the men who fought in the Revolution, wrote the Declaration and framed the Constitution remained alive as Lincoln reached his 20s. By the time he departed Springfield in 1861, the president-elect had spent his political maturity pondering the lessons of the Founders, teasing out the principles that informed them as he faced a task he deemed “greater than George Washington’s”—holding together a dangerously fragile union. Famously self-made, Lincoln learned most of what he knew from books. Byron, Shakespeare and the Bible account for the touches of poetry in his prose; to Euclid goes partial credit for the rigorous logic underpinning his arguments. The Founders, however, became Lincoln’s most reliable instructors: Thomas Paine for plainspoken proofs; Washington as a model of virtue and for his love of liberty; the problematic Jefferson for the Declaration’s perfect expression of the American purpose. National Review senior editor Brookhiser (James Madison, 2011, etc.) touches on many other influences that shaped Lincoln’s mind, even throwing a little credit to Thomas Lincoln (something Abraham never did) for his son’s talent for storytelling. If the author’s attempt to link the figure of John Wilkes Booth to the dreaded and destructive “towering genius” prophesized in Lincoln’s 1838 Lyceum Address doesn’t quite work, his discussion of the second inaugural is genuinely moving and instructive. The narrative always smoothly returns, though, to the Founders and Lincoln’s unceasing attempt to divine their intentions and to examine the institutions they built and the opportunity they created for someone like him to thrive.

For years now, Brookhiser has helped bring the Founders back to life, precisely Lincoln’s purpose as the president contemplated for his country a new birth of freedom, “the old freedom” they envisioned in 1776 but couldn’t quite perfect.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-03294-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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