LEADERS

            Recollections of Churchill, de Gaulle, Khrushchev, et al. recycled from RN – plus biographical material from the public domain and a few thoughts on leadership by which Nixon identifies himself with his subjects.  The great political leader must be willing “to risk all to gain all”; to endure opprobrium; to spend years “in the wilderness.”  (In all these respects, see also Adenauer.)  Two of the lesser lights in Nixon’s pantheon – Japan’s Yoshida, Italy’s de Gasperi – resisted radicalism; two – Australia’s Menzies, Singapore’s Lee – were champions of free enterprise who made their countries rich.  (“The pursuit of affluence is much ridiculed by those who have never known the absence of it.”)  Other cross-comparisons, endemic throughout, are simply extensions of Nixon’s hackneyed characterizations or his connect-the-dot grasp of history:  “If David Ben-Gurion was an elemental force of history, Golda Meir was an elemental force of nature.”  “Like Ghana’s Nkrumah, Indonesia’s Sukarno proved a disaster once independence was secured.  Both could destroy; neither could build.”  Furthermore:  Chou was charming, Mao earthy; Chiang orderly, Mao slovenly.  And Mao, “like most revolutionary leaders, could destroy but could not build.”  Much of the book, however, consists of stock biographical data, stock anecdotes, or stock quotes.  Even Nixon’s ostentatious dissents from the common view are pat:  de Gaulle’s reputed arrogance notwithstanding, “I found him to be a very kind man…I would say he was almost gentle”; “in spite of [Adenauer’s] outward austerity…he was a warm, good-humored, gentle man.”  The close-Nixon-watcher might indeed find his admiration for de Gaulle and Adenauer of some interest.  (Both are lauded as family men; both befriended him when he was out of office.)  But for a self-proclaimed avid reader of history (another attribute of leadership), he is remarkably unaware that others have heard his story of the “kitchen debate” with Khrushchev before, or also know that Churchill and de Gaulle were “voices in the wilderness” in the Thirties.  And it would be beyond his ken that some might not equate his defeat for the California governorship with their warnings against the Nazi rise.  Pretty tiresome, even for the sympathetically-inclined.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1982

ISBN: 0446512494

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Warner UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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