A fine starting point for those interested in the history and future of Iran, but far from definitive.

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PERPLEXITY OF IRAN

This brief look at the history of Iran has an eye toward using the region’s diverse past as an argument for regime change.

Political unrest in the Middle East is deeply rooted in the region’s complex past, and its present and future are inexorably tied to events predating even the formation of Islam. This is especially true in Iran, a country that, despite its controversial role in the war on terror, is presented by ChamanAra (A Journey to the Truth, 2005, etc.) as a pluralistic society, both in its origins and as it exists today. However, according to the author, it is because of Iran’s vocal, ruling minority that the country stands at odds with its neighbors, so the dream of peace remains out of reach. The book’s solution is an optimistic though not implausible one, which suggests that regime change in Iran is possible without foreign military intervention. Instead, by utilizing the country’s moderate base (both at home and the millions of expatriate Iranians), religion and government could be separated in the country through the rejection of Sharia law, along with limited diplomatic pressure from the United States. Diplomacy in the region is, of course, not to be frivolously approached, so ChamanAra provides a useful “crash-course” in Iranian history, which looks at the conflicts that shaped the country and illustrates how they affected the Muslim faith, with emphasis on the differences between the Shia and Sunni and a focus on the hard-line offshoot, the Wahhabi. This history is exceedingly useful in understanding the book’s principle arguments; citation is poor, however, with most of the facts culled from Wikipedia, lending some doubt as to their validity. While it’s clear that ChamanAra has an impressive understanding and deep passion for Iran, the passion is outweighed by all the cold, dubious facts. The narrative occasionally slips into a reserved, almost detached tone, punctuated by obtuse metaphors and some intellectual condescension in its portrayal of Third World countries after World War II. In the end, the book’s revolutionary ideas aren’t adequately explored; instead, they’re lost in what amounts to a short history book.

A fine starting point for those interested in the history and future of Iran, but far from definitive.

Pub Date: April 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469168562

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

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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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