More than a little admiring of Arthur, but there’s cleareyed criticism of his Round Table.

CAMELOT'S COURT

INSIDE THE KENNEDY WHITE HOUSE

The author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (2003) returns with descriptions and assessments of the fallen president’s principal advisers.

Dallek (The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945–1953, 2010, etc.) begins with some quick chapters about JFK’s pre-presidential life before commencing his voyage. The president’s brother Robert, the attorney general, emerges as the key adviser, reappearing continually in the narrative, especially during the most crucial issues—the missile crisis of 1962 and the civil rights agenda (which, as Dallek notes, took a back seat to foreign affairs). The author introduces each adviser with a description of his (yes, all were men) background and notes that the new president put into his Cabinet—and into his non-Cabinet advisory groups—Republicans and others who annoyed the left wing of his own party. The author shows us the roles that each played and the reputation that he had among the others and with the president. Arthur Schlesinger, for example, was more at the fringes than popular understanding would have it; the Joint Chiefs of Staff were continually at war with the White House on potential actions in Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and elsewhere. (Unsurprisingly, they favored military action.) Deputy National Security Adviser Walt Rostow emerges as the most hawkish of the bunch, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the least decisive and/or consistent. Dallek examines each of JFK’s crises in detail, focusing on what the advisers were (or were not) telling him, and he notes several times that their failure to reach consensus was a serious problem. The author spares no one. He chides JFK for his womanizing, LBJ for his ego and McNamara for his credulousness. Here is perhaps the only account of the 1963 March on Washington that does not mention King’s speech.

More than a little admiring of Arthur, but there’s cleareyed criticism of his Round Table.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-206584-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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