A smoothly written, comprehensive life of a man at once complex and superficial—truly an icon of the modern age.

THE PEOPLE’S TYCOON

HENRY FORD AND THE AMERICAN CENTURY

Hailed in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Henry Ford was “an American icon”—and, argues historian Watts, the principal architect of American consumer culture.

Born on a Michigan farm in 1863, Ford did not want for much; the crops were good, and his mother imparted to him a Victorian ethic that “forged a creed combining Protestant moralism, market individualism, the work ethic, and genteel restraint.” The McGuffey Readers did their part, too, as did Thomas Edison, whom Ford met after having developed a prototype car in 1896. Edison approved of his design, exclaiming, “Your car is self-contained—it carries its own power-plant—no fire, no boiler, no smoke, no steam. You have the thing. Keep at it.” Ford took from Edison a certainty that technology could yield social good and wealth by improving the lot of the workers, as well as reinforcement for his own views on the virtues of hard work and frugality. He eventually turned social engineer, using some of his immense wealth to fund anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol crusades, all in the name of good business and efficiency; he once remarked that he would never hire a manager who looked to be worn or in bad shape, reckoning that such a fellow would use Ford’s money as poorly as he did his own body. About the time Ford’s business practices—don’t allow unions, but pay well, and the like—were being lauded in totalitarian Germany and Leninist Russia as the face of the industrial future, Ford expanded his extracurricular interests to include railing against Jews; as with his adoption of fad diets and spiritualist causes, Watts observes, Ford “offered a mishmash of half-digested concepts and visceral intuitions, rather than systematic analysis, so his social and cultural speculations did not probe very deeply.” Deeply enough, though, to lose market share and political influence—and to have his name forever associated with despicable causes as much as remembered for his very real achievements.

A smoothly written, comprehensive life of a man at once complex and superficial—truly an icon of the modern age.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-40735-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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