A COVERT LIFE

JAY LOVESTONE: COMMUNIST, ANTICOMMUNIST, AND SPY

Pulitzer-winning journalist, biographer, and historian Morgan (A Shovel of Stars: The Making of the American West 1800 to the Present, 1995, etc.) throws scattershot light on 20th-century Communism, labor, and US intelligence through a shadowy figure who passed through all these worlds. Born in Lithuania in 1897, Jacob Liebstein emigrated with his parents to the US at the age of ten and settled on New York’s Lower East Side. Caught up in the fervor of the Russian Revolution, he forsook Judaism, took the name Jay Lovestone, and became a member of the American Communist Party. By the age of 29, his workhorse habits, intellect, and zeal had propelled him to the leadership of the party. But in 1929 he was expelled for defying Joseph Stalin in front of the Comintern Congress. Involuntarily detained in the Soviet Union, Lovestone made a hairbreadth escape. After breaking definitively with Communism, in the early 1940s Lovestone linked up with George Meany, in time becoming the AFL leader’s foreign-policy adviser and liaison to the CIA. Lovestone retained a talent for intrigue and a conspiratorial mindset that led him to collaborate for more than 20 years with CIA spycatcher James Angleton. Often incurring the antipathy of CIA handlers and other labor leaders, the abrasive but effective Lovestone helped splinter off non-Communist union organizers from Moscow-controlled insurgents in France and Italy, and established free trade unions as a bulwark against Stalin in West Germany. In 1974, this unregenerate Cold Warrior was ousted from his AFL-CIO post when his continuing involvement with Angleton was exposed. Morgan has uncovered much in newly opened archives of the Kremlin, FBI surveillance, and Lovestone’s personal papers at the Hoover Institution that will be invaluable to future Cold War historians. But he mixes mindless trivia, say, of his subject’s love life, with items of real significance, and he fails to follow up tantalizing points (e.g., he mentions only in passing that Whittaker Chambers was a Lovestone sympathizer in the 1930s). A revealing and yet at times frustratingly truncated biography of an early American dissident from the God that failed.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-44400-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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