A detached, dead-honest memoir of WW II from a distinguished scholar who, though he survived scores of aerial combat missions against the Japanese, focuses on the Stateside experiences that attended his coming of age. At present, Hynes is Woodrow Wilson professor of literature at Princeton; he's also the author of such works as The Edwardian Turn of Mind and The Auden Generation. There is, however, not a word about his postwar life and career in the consistently engaging text. Hynes simply provides a self-contained first-person account of the stirring journey that took him at age 19 in 1943 from Minnesota's farm country to the Navy's air-cadet program and beyond. As a fledgling aviator, Hynes trained chiefly at makeshift military bases near tank towns in America's Sunbelt. When posted to an established installation like Pensacola, Fla., he vaguely appreciated its permanence and traditions. Apart from learning to fly and to finesse the ancillary rigors of pilot training, though, the author's main concern was the pursuit of pleasure in his off-duty hours. In evocative detail he recalls the camaraderie that was nurtured in gin mills from Memphis to Honolulu as well as the drunken escapades which created morning-after legends to flight lines half a world away. Hynes opted to take his commission in the Marine Corps rather than the Navy for reasons he's not quite sure he understands to this day. Before shipping out to the Pacific as a torpedo-bomber pilot, the author took to wife the sister of a fellow officer from Birmingham, Ala. They had a few months "playing house" near Santa Barbara, but whether the marriage endured or became just another war casualty is unclear. Indeed, Hynes devotes more space to recapping the lyrics of bawdy barracks and bar-room ballads than to recalling wedded life on the run. He closes with his return to the US months after V-E Day. Unsentimental, understated reminiscences that deliver a true record of the glorious, degrading, ludicrous, tedious, appalling, and other aberrant elements that constitute military manhood in time of war.

Pub Date: March 1, 1988

ISBN: 0142002909

Page Count: 276

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988

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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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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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