An important, long-overdue biography.



A deep biographical treatment of the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who is the scourge of those in power.

Seymour Hersh, now in his late 70s, began his unlikely journalism career in 1959 after earning a history degree from the University of Chicago and dropping out of law school. With limited cooperation from his subject, journalist and former journalism professor Miraldi (The Pen Is Mightier: The Muckraking Life of Charles Edward Russell, 2003, etc.) documents his remarkable, controversial decades as an investigative reporter. Hersh comes across as a good guy of limited patience when approached by fellow journalists and as a bulldog with sharp teeth when in his reporter mode. Miraldi clearly demonstrates how the journalistically capable but mostly unknown Hersh rocketed to fame in 1969 with his exploration of the My Lai massacre. Despite the enormity of that atrocity and countless similar atrocities by American troops, no other journalist was digging into the topic, and Hersh had difficulty finding a news outlet to publish his findings. Eventually, his output of books, investigations for the New York Times, projects for the New Yorker and speeches to a wide variety of audiences made Hersh famous, albeit alternately loved or hated. Miraldi explains why there is rarely a middle ground of opinion regarding Hersh the person and Hersh the muckraker. Although Hersh is extremely closed about his family life, Miraldi manages to reveal pertinent information, allowing his subject to emerge from the pages as fully human rather than a one-dimensional scandal hound. In the competition between Hersh and Bob Woodward—a competition that includes strong feelings from the supporters and detractors of each—Hersh can be considered to be superior based on Miraldi's portrait, despite the warts the biographer delineates. Miraldi closes the Hersh saga in 2004, after Hersh's exposé of Abu Ghraib, yet another blot on America's reputation in the world.

An important, long-overdue biography.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61234-475-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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 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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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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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