A FLAME OF PURE FIRE

JACK DEMPSEY AND THE ROARING '20S

With spellbinding results, a writer better known for his immortal baseball books crosses over—both to another sport, boxing, and to another literary genre, the sprawling social history. Born in 1895 and reared amid the hardscrabble surroundings of Colorado mining towns, William Harrison Dempsey entered adulthood as America girded for entry in the Great War. Exploding onto the boxing scene after felling the giant champion Jess Willard, Dempsey found himself at the center of a storm. Withstanding accusations of brutality from a spurned wife and charges of draft dodging in the war, Dempsey throughout the 1920s proved himself a good man and no dope, to boot. He was courted by kings, Hollywood moguls, and a parade of beautiful women. Meanwhile, in the ring, he faced legendary opponents in fights that even today are recognized simply by the names of the combatants: Dempsey v. Firpo, Dempsey v. Tunney. As the title suggests, this book is about boxing as both a “sweet science” and a corrupt spectacle. More than this, however, Kahn plumbs the times, and what times they were: the Great War, baseball’s 1919 “Black Sox” affair, the Roaring “20s. And Jack Dempsey was the cynosure of these times—a man praised at his passing at age 87 by the writer Jim Murray, with the following words: “he took an era with him.” Kahn chronicles the people and events that propel the narrative, among them, presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, the Scopes trial, Knute Rockne, Babe Ruth, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Lindbergh, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Al Capone. He also gives an exacting and gripping portrait of sport in its golden era. Kahn pays tribute to a generation of sportswriters—Lardner, Gallico, Pegler, Runyon, Broun, et al.—who shared equally the credit for making the times seem so grand. An intoxicating panoply of legends and heroes, surely one of the most solid and delightful sporting histories of recent times. (16 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-100296-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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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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