Useful for students of presidential history, and worthy of emulation: a selected Ford, anyone?

LET EVERY NATION KNOW

Excerpts of selected speeches, interviews and debates delivered by the last president (but one) not to speak from note cards or in sound bites; packaged with an audio CD.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, avow presidential historian Dallek (Flawed Giant, 1998) and New York Observer columnist Golway (Washington’s General, 2005), “spoke in literate paragraphs, and his speeches were filled with references to history and literature that have all but disappeared from American political discourse.” Indeed, Ronald Reagan borrowed the “city on a hill” trope, unacknowledged, from Kennedy, who took it from the early American Protestant religious dissenter John Winthrop; it always sounded a little foreign on Reagan’s lips, but Kennedy—though, famously, the first and only Catholic president—naturally took to the rhetoric of Boston’s Brahmins. Dallek and Golway, for their part, acknowledge that Kennedy had speechwriters aplenty, notably the brilliant Theodore Sorensen, who wrote much of Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage; regrettably, they do not go on to distinguish which of his aides concocted which New Frontier theme. The help notwithstanding, Kennedy did his homework, was smart and hardworking and gave a resounding speech. As Dallek and Golway remark on the best of his public utterances, they offer illuminations and remember little-known episodes. The third presidential debate with Richard Nixon featured Nixon tsk-tsking Harry Truman for using words like “hell” and “damn,” saying that he’d never allow such language in his White House. (The irony, the irony.) The debates were followed by the narrowest election in history, they note, but not so narrow as Nixon protested; even if Nixon had won the supposedly rigged Illinois vote, Kennedy would have carried the Electoral College. And Kennedy berated himself over the Bay of Pigs disaster, which only seemed to increase the esteem his compatriots felt: “It’s like Eisenhower,” he said. “The worse I do, the more popular I get.”

Useful for students of presidential history, and worthy of emulation: a selected Ford, anyone?

Pub Date: April 17, 2006

ISBN: 1-4022-0647-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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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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