Brookhiser might have done more to examine the text with an eye to that question, but this remains a balanced and thoroughly...

GENTLEMAN REVOLUTIONARY

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, THE RAKE WHO WROTE THE CONSTITUTION

Third in National Review senior editor Brookhiser’s series on the heroes of the American Revolution (Founding Father, 1996; Alexander Hamilton, American, 1999).

Gouverneur Morris was less celebrated in his own day than either Hamilton or Washington, but not for want of trying: he had an endlessly high regard for himself, chased women on two continents, led a life of wealth and influence before and after the Revolution (the seat of his family estate stretched from the Harlem River to Long Island Sound, and as a lawyer he commonly earned fees of $10,000 a pop), and was altogether satisfied with his abilities and accomplishments. The scion of French Huguenot and Dutch forebears, Morris enjoyed an aristocratic heritage that “represented something that existed nowhere else in the Thirteen Colonies [but New York]—an old world of European settlement that preceded the arrival of Englishmen.” For all that, Morris was quick to choose the Continental side when the war came, and unwavering in his devotion to the American cause. Although his leanings were fundamentally conservative, Morris championed religious freedom, disagreeing with fellow Federalist John Jay that “Americans were a united people . . . professing one religion”—which, Brookhiser points out, meant not Christianity but Protestantism—and holding vigorously that “matters of conscience and faith, whether political or religious, are as much out of the province, as they are beyond the ken of human legislatures.” Brookhiser also asserts, intriguingly, that Morris mistrusted democracy and favored national over states’ rights—and that he foresaw the Civil War as early as 1812, when he urged New York and New England to break away from the slaveholding states. As the lead author of the Constitution, Morris had ample opportunity to insert his views on such matters.

Brookhiser might have done more to examine the text with an eye to that question, but this remains a balanced and thoroughly interesting study of the man and his time all the same.

Pub Date: June 3, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-2379-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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