DREADNOUGHT

BRITAIN, GERMANY, AND THE COMING OF THE GREAT WAR

Here, as with his Pulitzer Prize-winning Peter the Great (1980), Massie disdains the virtues of literary economy. Yet this history of pre-WW I super-rivalry is much more than an imposing doorstop, for the author is a master of the Barbara Tuchman/William Manchester school of popular history. If there is a villain of this epic, it is Germany's Kaiser William II. Autocratic, bellicose, and tactless enough to refer to British ministers as ``unmitigated noodles,'' he understandably grieved his grandmother and uncle, Britain's Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). In his desire for Weltmacht (world power), William, in 1887, decided to complement the world's most powerful army with a formidable battle fleet, so alarming Great Britain that it ended its foreign policy of ``Splendid Isolation'' from Continental affairs and began a frantic shipbuilding program of its own. Massie follows the fortunes of the two countries through colonial disputes, secret understandings with former foes, high-wire diplomacy, and tit-for-tat building of dreadnoughts (the class of fast, all-big-gun battleships named for the innovative British vessel built in 1906). Like 19th-century novelists, Massie employs an epic narrative that leisurely explores characters, including such military and political figures as Admirals Alfred von Tirpitz and John Fisher, the commanders who radically transformed their countries' naval defenses; Bernard von Bulow, the cynical German Chancellor who ``lacked purpose, scruples, courage, and a vision of his own''; and Winston Churchill. A dramatic re-creation of the diplomatic minuets and military brinkmanship that preceded, and made inevitable, the guns of August 1914 and the resulting catastrophes of this century. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs; maps.) (Book-of-the-Month Split Main Selection for December)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-52833-6

Page Count: 1004

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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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