An exhaustive portrait of the man responsible for shining a light on the lives of the poor in late-19th-century New York...

THE OTHER HALF

THE LIFE OF JACOB RIIS AND THE WORLD OF IMMIGRANT AMERICA

Solid though blandly written biography of the pioneering investigative journalist.

Buk-Swienty (Journalism/Univ. of Southern Denmark) recounts the remarkable story of how Jacob Riis (1849–1914) rose from humble beginnings in Denmark, arrived in the United States virtually penniless and after a series of odd jobs became a reporter specializing in crime and poverty. His seminal work, How the Other Half Lives, is still read today, offering a demonstration of how much worse things were a hundred years ago for those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Though generally admiring, the book does not gloss over its subject’s flaws, which included a weakness for sensationalist prose, a hefty ego and prejudiced attitudes toward blacks and Jews. “Riis was a typical Victorian moralist who would never have dreamed of questioning the superiority of Christian values and who saw himself as superior to people of color,” Buk-Swienty writes. The author goes on to chronicle the reporter’s collaborations with Theodore Roosevelt and other like-minded reformers to improve housing, health and sanitary conditions in New York City’s tenements. Riis opened Roosevelt’s eyes to the conditions endured by the truly needy and helped reinforce some of the future president’s already strong progressive instincts. While it doesn’t break much new ground, this admirable biography will reintroduce Riis to modern readers, many of whom know him only from passing references in history books. Unfortunately, the book’s appeal is limited by Buk-Swienty’s uninspired prose (assuming it’s fairly translated) and poor organizational skills. He has a tendency to go off on tangents like a two-page discourse on the history of photography, and he spends nearly 100 pages on Riis’s early life before getting to his more important years as a journalist.

An exhaustive portrait of the man responsible for shining a light on the lives of the poor in late-19th-century New York City.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06023-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more