A longtime policy wonk delivers an engrossing look at his work fighting poverty in government and academic environments.

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A veteran of poverty research and welfare reform presents a broad retrospective of his career.

In this memoir, Corbett (Ouch, Now I Remember, 2015, etc.) offers the third volume of his professional reminiscences about his experiences studying poverty and methods of combating it in both an academic and government context. The author recounts stories from his decades of work, providing an answer to the question he poses in the book’s introduction: “How could a young man so dense that he could not handle basic high school algebra rise to a leadership position in a leading research institute at a top-flight university?” The answer, shared with a mix of merited self-assurance and self-deprecating humor, is Corbett’s holistic approach to both responding to the challenges of poverty and to bridging the gap between theoretical and applied social sciences. With frequent references to his previous writings, both the earlier memoirs and his academic publications, the author leads the reader through trends in understanding poverty and providing government assistance as they evolve through the later decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. One of the book’s strongest sections addresses the sudden popularity of a metaphor Corbett used to explain poverty programs: “I did not know fame was so easily secured, or that silly notions had such permanency in the intellectual firmament,” he reflects. Although the volume’s length is daunting, and portions could benefit from being shortened, as a whole it is an effective narrative, blending academic pursuits with making a concrete difference in individual lives and institutional procedures. The account recognizes the many ongoing problems of combating poverty while celebrating advances that have been made. And despite Corbett’s acknowledgment that “talking about bureaucracies had little to recommend itself to someone interested in actually selling books,” his experiences with President Bill Clinton’s and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson’s reform initiatives are far from dull and make for often compelling storytelling.

A longtime policy wonk delivers an engrossing look at his work fighting poverty in government and academic environments.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5245-4822-3

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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