A text both evocative and provocative for readers who like to think.

EARNING THE ROCKIES

HOW GEOGRAPHY SHAPES AMERICA'S ROLE IN THE WORLD

As our geography has long insulated us from foreign invasion, so has it shaped our temperament and enabled us to become a world power, a category we must modify but continue to inhabit.

In his latest book, Atlantic contributing editor Kaplan (In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond, 2016, etc.), a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, employs several approaches. Memoir, literary history, military history, geopolitical analysis—all weave throughout this knowledgeable (and for Kaplan, brief) work. Literary allusions to Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and others appear continually, as do extensive meditations on key works about America, which Kaplan calls his “sacred” texts. Principal among these are several by Bernard DeVoto, Walter Prescott Webb, and Wallace Stegner. Kaplan pauses to discuss these texts—which he believes are enduringly relevant—during a long coast-to-coast (east-to-west) car trip he took in the spring of 2015. His was a jagged journey, up and down as well as side to side, and the author visited the usual (Mount Rushmore) and the barely known (small crumbling towns). He notes the vast waterways in the East and Midwest, waterways that allowed settlement and commerce to flourish, and he comments on the aridity of the West and the challenges it continues to present. Not everything he notes is newsworthy—e.g., there is lots of obesity in rural America and sameness in suburban shopping centers; small Western towns are dying—but in his final sections, Kaplan discusses in scholarly but accessible detail the significant role that America has played and must play in this shuddering world. He believes that we are the only ones who really can do so. He also notes with sorrow our treatment of Native Americans, our dire history of slavery, and other colossal failures of heart and humanity.

A text both evocative and provocative for readers who like to think.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-58821-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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