A careful account of a man who excited attention and controversy in his day but then fell into the shadows. Fried does well...

RUSH

REVOLUTION, MADNESS, AND BENJAMIN RUSH, THE VISIONARY DOCTOR WHO BECAME A FOUNDING FATHER

A welcome biography of a Founding Father who, for many reasons, has been eclipsed by other figures of the Revolution.

Benjamin Rush (1745-1843) is renowned in the annals of American medicine as a pioneer of medical education and the treatment of the mentally ill. Yet, writes Fried (Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West, 2010, etc.), Rush came to medicine somewhat late, having rejected a career in the clergy and then the law, and he settled in to a kind of general practice that was notable for lifestyle advice: “Every full meal,” he warned, “is a stimulous to the whole system, and brings on a temporary fever.” Well ahead of contemporaries and later generations of professionals, he advocated a nice round of golf, a game that he claimed would allow its player to “live ten years the longer.” Falling into the orbit of freethinkers such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, the latter of whom thought him “too much of a talker to be a deep thinker,” Rush became a prominent revolutionary and signer of the Declaration of Independence, then surgeon general of the Continental Army. In the last post, he advocated for better conditions for the soldiers, a losing argument in “an army that still didn’t have enough uniforms, shoes, or proper weapons.” Fried’s account of Rush’s postwar career is full of oddments: A slaveholder, Rush eventually became a vocal abolitionist and supporter of African-American causes; an early advocate of mental health treatments, some of which we would regard as quackery today, he had some odd notions—e.g., the thought that booksellers, moving from one book and one subject to another so rapidly, “have sometimes become deranged from this cause.” In all, Fried delivers a complete portrait of a complex man too little known outside Philadelphia.

A careful account of a man who excited attention and controversy in his day but then fell into the shadows. Fried does well to restore him to history.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8041-4006-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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 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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