An artful addition to Kennedyana, complete with detailed literary forensics that will inevitably invite a comparison to the...

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THE INAUGURATION OF JOHN F. KENNEDY AND THE SPEECH THAT CHANGED AMERICA

Comprehensive account of the day a young president took the oath of office and gave one of the great speeches of the 20th century.

Clarke (Searching for Crusoe, 2001, etc.) details the activities of president-elect John F. Kennedy for the 11 days that culminated with his delivery of an electrifying address calculated to vie with Lincoln’s and FDR’s best. He unravels the skein of authorship, including the contributions of Ted Sorensen and others, relating just how the youthful politician became the true owner of the speech’s grace and eloquence and how JFK delivered the oration of his life that cold, sunny day more than four decades ago. The cool central figure, fully aware of power of the High Court of History, spent time phoning and tanning at the family ménage at Palm Beach, arranging liaisons and ignoring the imprecations of a dithering mother and a domineering father. Jack reenacted composing a “draft” of his speech in the presence of a reporter or two as Evelyn Lincoln typed consecutive versions. Jackie fretted about the dowdy “Maison Blanche” and devised a killer initial First Lady outfit with Oleg Cassini. Volatile Sinatra, impresario of the inaugural gala, enlisted a “bouillabaisse of hoofers, opera stars, vaudeville comedians, Broadway belters, and classical actors.” Pals from the days of PT 109 appeared. Bigwigs of the generation passing into history succumbed to rampant political schadenfreude. Clarke is adept at seeing the webs of internecine feuds and animosities so hot in the inaugural VIP seats that spontaneous combustion didn’t seem impossible. He’s also an apt student of the what-he-had-for-breakfast-that-day school of popular history, and as his vivid narrative unfolds in that tradition, we can hear the words of the speech rise from the page.

An artful addition to Kennedyana, complete with detailed literary forensics that will inevitably invite a comparison to the present state of political rhetoric and contemplation of what we have lost.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2004

ISBN: 0-8050-7213-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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