A well-documented narrative that would benefit from more consistent analysis.

KENNEDY AND KING

THE PRESIDENT, THE PASTOR, AND THE BATTLE OVER CIVIL RIGHTS

A dual biography chronicles three years of upheaval in the civil rights movement.

Journalist Levingston (Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris, 2014, etc.), the nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post, synthesizes voluminous material—biographies, memoirs, histories, and archival documents—to produce a comprehensive examination of the relationship between John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. That relationship was fraught even before the two men met in secret in 1960: Kennedy had decided to run for president and hoped for an endorsement from King, already a major figure in the fight for racial equality. “King had much to offer Kennedy,” writes the author, but Kennedy had little but promises to offer King. “He did not have the grasp and the comprehension of the depths and dimensions of the problem,” King recalled. Moreover, Kennedy was reluctant to upset Southern Democrats by aligning himself with King. Distilling many sources, Levingston wavers in his analysis of Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights: some sources hail him as a man “sympathetic to the suffering of others” with “a reflexive dislike of unfairness.” Others saw him as a political opportunist, “deaf” to “cries for freedom,” feigning interest in order to win the black vote but ignoring civil rights unless it directly benefited his own agenda. Although Levingston insists that Kennedy was “a man of intellect and compassion,” some evidence he presents supports the idea that the Kennedy brothers saw civil rights as the “moral issue” that would burnish the president’s image. A stronger argument would have helped to reconcile this contradiction, which persists throughout the book. Similarly, Levingston presents Robert Kennedy as sometimes passionately sympathetic to civil rights and sometimes harshly impatient of King’s pleas for help from the White House. The author does make a case for the brothers’ naiveté, calling them “novices plunged into a maelstrom far more complicated than they realized at first.” Not surprisingly, King was repeatedly frustrated in his dealings with them.

A well-documented narrative that would benefit from more consistent analysis.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26739-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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