This detailed, mostly worshipful account will not convince everyone, but few will put it down.

JFK'S LAST HUNDRED DAYS

THE TRANSFORMATION OF A MAN AND THE EMERGENCE OF A GREAT PRESIDENT

Prolific popular historian Clarke (The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America, 2008, etc.) argues that the charismatic president, whose achievements are generally low-rated by scholars, in his final months revealed himself as a great statesman.

The book opens on August 7, 1963, when Jackie delivered a premature son whose devastating death brought the couple together. The author spends much time on JFK’s personal life, not avoiding his well-known sexual appetite and often crippling medical problems. On the political front, this period saw the approval of the first nuclear test ban treaty. Kennedy was not so fortunate with his proposals to Congress for a strong civil rights bill and a tax cut to lower the very high rates Americans had been paying since World War II. Both bills stalled: Southern legislators opposed any law advancing civil rights, and Republicans, in those far-off days, considered the tax cut fiscally irresponsible. Their passage required the political skills of JFK’s successor and unhappy vice president, Lyndon Johnson, universally despised by Kennedy aides as “Uncle Cornpone." Clarke emphasizes that JFK yearned to withdraw American advisers from Vietnam, which seems true, but since most aides and ultimately Kennedy himself decided that a noncommunist South Vietnam was vital to American security, intervention was inevitable once it became clear that South Vietnam’s army couldn’t defeat the Vietcong. Clarke certainly demonstrates that three often painful years in office had taught Kennedy valuable lessons. No one can say what would have happened if he had lived, but no one will deny that he was a spectacularly appealing character, and Clarke delivers a thoroughly delightful portrait.

This detailed, mostly worshipful account will not convince everyone, but few will put it down.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59420-425-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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