Poignant reading on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death and of broad interest to students of American political...

AMERICA'S RELUCTANT PRINCE

THE LIFE OF JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.

An unvarnished portrait of the Kennedy scion who seemed to command all his parents’ charisma—and who met a tragic, early end.

History Channel scholar-in-residence Gillon (History/Univ. of Oklahoma; Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism, 2018, etc.) writes as both professional historian and friend—not close friend, he allows, but close enough to have had plenty of face time—of John F. Kennedy Jr. (1960-1999), who “understood what he represented to millions of people, and he was willing to assume that burden.” That self-awareness took some time to develop. By the author’s account, the usual adolescent rebellion blended with unusual privilege, and John Jr. was somewhat slow in attaining adulthood in a whirl of partying and slacking off. (Still, he was much better behaved than Bobby Kennedy’s offspring, who “were overly wild.”) In the end, breaking with the family’s Harvard tradition and going to Brown, John Jr. emerged as a person of substance, someone who was able to weave the stories of his father’s and relatives’ iconic lives into “a coherent narrative” and to figure out how to make a place for himself in that line. He did so with the magazine George, launched in 1995, which, Gillon ventures, was ahead of its time in many ways, pointing to the emergence of politicians as not just politicians, but also as figures in pop culture. Bill Clinton provided plenty of gossip, but while the timing of the magazine was right in some ways, it was soon supplanted by political talk shows that “turned talking heads into media stars." Gillon writes with a practitioner’s appreciation for historical narrative, but he doesn’t hesitate to pitch a little dirt here and there, as when he writes of family feuds, marital discord, and other things publicists like to keep out of view.

Poignant reading on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death and of broad interest to students of American political dynasties.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4238-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2019

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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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