A colleague once praised Sorensen’s ability to “use words that everybody can understand—intellectuals, milkmen, diplomats,...

COUNSELOR

A LIFE AT THE EDGE OF HISTORY

The legendary Kennedy adviser reflects on his own remarkable life.

In 1965 Theodore C. Sorensen authored Kennedy. Now approaching 80, nearly 50 years removed from the job for which he remains best known, John F. Kennedy’s Special Counsel and indispensable wordsmith revisits much of the same territory, this time as “Ted,” a tip-off to this book’s more relaxed tone and focus on his own contributions to JFK’s career. Comparable historically to Colonel House, Harry Hopkins and Karl Rove, the man JFK referred to as “his intellectual blood bank” tells marvelous stories about first going to work for the Massachusetts senator, the writing of JFK’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Profiles in Courage, traveling the country for the 1960 campaign, the first televised presidential debates, the Cuban missile crisis, the triumphal visit to Berlin and, of course, crafting many memorable speeches for candidate and President Kennedy. Although he’s more forthcoming than ever about these and other more delicate topics—including Kennedy’s philandering, the senator’s timid response to the McCarthy censure and the president’s assassination—the author’s deep respect for and heartache at the loss of his mentor clearly abides. Sorensen (Why I Am a Democrat, 1996, etc.) also makes room for stories about his career as an international lawyer, his failed senate bid in 1970, the fiasco surrounding his withdrawn 1977 nomination for Director of Central Intelligence and his continuing role as adviser to the Kennedy family. He expresses regret about the toll his high-powered life took on two failed marriages, and about his own youthful aloofness and arrogance. He also pauses to settle some minor scores with the likes of Kenneth O’Donnell, Richard Goodwin, Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter. Notwithstanding the great events and the famous people that crowd this narrative, the most charming and heartfelt passages concern the author’s early life in Nebraska, as he traces the roots of his family and his still unabashed liberalism.

A colleague once praised Sorensen’s ability to “use words that everybody can understand—intellectuals, milkmen, diplomats, politicians.” The author does just that in this absorbing memoir.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-079871-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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