The themes implicit in the author’s bestsellers are explicit in this slim yet illuminating volume.

TRIBE

ON HOMECOMING AND BELONGING

A short book with a solid argument about the downside of civilization’s progress.

The latest from Vanity Fair contributing editor Junger (War, 2010, etc.) mixes memoir, reportage, and historical research into a case for the advantages of the tribe and how connective, communal benefits are lost as society moves toward competition and individuality. The author begins with the early settlement of America, examining how colonists introduced to tribal life, or captured into it, might convert to it, but the process rarely worked the other way. “Indians almost never ran away to join white society,” writes Junger. “Emigration always seemed to go from the civilized to the tribal, and it left Western thinkers flummoxed about how to explain such an apparent rejection of their society.” The author then makes a leap in his argument that is as provocative as some will find it counterintuitive: how war and catastrophe seem to instill that tribal spirit that individuals have otherwise lost and how the stress of such times serves to improve mental health rather than threaten it. As jarring as conjecture about “the positive effects of war on mental health” might seem, Junger amasses plenty of academic and anecdotal support. From there, he makes another leap, to PTSD, asserting that its prevalence stems less from the traumas of battle than from the difficulties of rejoining a disjointed, divided society after collective tribal bonding. “The problem doesn’t seem to be the trauma on the battlefield so much as reentry into society,” he writes, showing how PTSD can affect returnees who have never experienced combat. The author resists the temptation to glorify war as the solution to a nation’s mental ills and warns against the tendency “to romanticize Indian life,” but he does succeed in showing “the complicated blessings of ‘civilization,’ ” while issuing warnings about divisiveness and selfishness that should resonate in an election year.

The themes implicit in the author’s bestsellers are explicit in this slim yet illuminating volume.

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-6638-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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