A sturdy scholarly biography that will appeal most to Roebling devotees and civil engineering buffs.

ENGINEERING AMERICA

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN A. ROEBLING

A hefty biography of John A. Roebling (1806-1869), renowned for designing and constructing suspension bridges and other engineering marvels.

Haw builds on his previous research on the Brooklyn Bridge to create this dense, prodigiously researched portrait of Roebling, who designed numerous projects but is perhaps best known for his initial plans for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge before his death. Roebling grew up in Germany and came to the U.S. in 1831, leading fellow German settlers to unclaimed land in rural Western Pennsylvania, where they tried to establish a self-sufficient town despite unfavorable soil and bad weather. Butler County became a base of operations for Roebling, his growing family, and later immigrants from Germany. In this mostly chronological narrative, Haw establishes early on that Roebling exhibited visionary tendencies across a wide range of disciplines. As the author notes, “he was fundamentally a seeker and a believer….So much of John’s life had been spent reaching toward a goal that was just out of reach, be it another shore or a new way to build or to organize society or the afterlife.” Haw also explains that some of those visions could be considered crackpot, aggravated by Roebling’s sometimes cruel and even violent behavior. As the countless details of Roebling’s life unfold, some readers are likely to tire of his unpleasant personality. Fortunately, those elements arrive in relatively short bursts, and Haw devotes lengthy sections to the art and science of suspension bridge building, not only by Roebling, but also by his engineering rivals. The “times” of Roebling’s life, as depicted by the author, are often more interesting than the life itself. For example, Haw explores how the fates of developing cities rose and fell depending on Roebling’s bridge-building successes and failures. The bridges even played a role in the Underground Railroad, and for a few compelling pages, Harriet Tubman appears in the narrative, which is grounded in massive research that may be overwhelming for general readers.

A sturdy scholarly biography that will appeal most to Roebling devotees and civil engineering buffs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-066390-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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