EISENHOWER

SOLDIER, GENERAL OF THE ARMY, PRESIDENT-ELECT, 1890-1952

At its most obvious, this is the first half of a rather bland biography of Eisenhower—partly from primary sources, but adding nothing consequential to the record—by a practiced hand and staunch admirer: to Ambrose, Eisenhower was "a great and good man," "one of the great captains of military history," and "one of the most successful presidents of the twentieth century." As a practical matter, much of it approximates a condensation of Ambrose's 1970 account of Eisenhower's WW II role, The Supreme Commander—from which many passages are taken—with the addition of material on Mamie (from Letters to Mamie), Kay Summersby (from her two books), and son John (from his memoirs); once again, too, Ambrose purports to be recreating events from Eisenhower's point of view—now with a "personal" component. In the last analysis, however, the Eisenhower we see—sedulously avoiding controversy, for instance, from 1930s Washington to WW II France to the presidency (and McCarthy)—is not very different from the figure portrayed in Peter Lyon's sophisticated interpretive biography or by military historians. Apropos of the earlier years, Ambrose offers a kind of split image—stressing (almost mechanically) the narrowness of Eisenhower's family-and-Abilene background, his rote learning at West Point, the US military's suspicion of politicians (particularly during the interwar period). And though he moots Eisenhower's wrong-side-of-the-tracks upbringing (insightfully examined by others), he does make subsequent reference to "buried feelings of jealousy and bitterness, like those of his childhood"; though he makes much of Eisenhower's unbroken attachment to Mamie, he does depict her querulousness as a trial (and suggests, reasonably enough, that Ike might have been in love with Kay too). On the war itself, he details "how often and how seriously Eisenhower botched things in North Africa" (from the Darlan deal to Kasserine Pass); justifies Eisenhower's selection for command of Overlord on the basis of his ability to direct combined British-American operations (not "his generalship, which in truth had been cautious and hesitant"); and takes full note of his crucial "desire to appease" Montgomery and Patton—leading to some of the war's "great mistakes" (like the failure to quickly take Antwerp and perhaps end hostilities in 1944). Still later, Ambrose notes that Eisenhower was "ashamed" of not having defended Marshall against McCarthy's charges in the 1952 campaign. None of this, however, differs from the historical consensus—nor does Ambrose's defense of Eisenhower's end-of-war decision not to race the Russians to Berlin. What he adds is a glaze of veneration: Eisenhower is a great man, and a great military captain, and prospectively a great president, because he had great human qualities—above all, the "self-confidence" that inspired trust in wartime and impelled him to seek the presidency ("He knew that he was smarter, more experienced, and had better principles than his competitors. . ."). A curious formulation, but one that will likely appeal—as the book will—to others who feel as Ambrose does.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0671440691

Page Count: 648

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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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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