In the end, Wicker offers little more than “a nice man with good connections”: perhaps not the worst president, though the...

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH

A PENGUIN LIFE

A readable life, at once respectful and critical, of Bush I, who nursed “what must have been a burning desire to become president of the United States” without formulating any particular plans for what he’d do once he got the job.

Novelist/historian Wicker (Easter Lily, 1998, etc.) bookends his Dwight D. Eisenhower (2002) with this study of Bush père, who, like Ike, “did not offer himself as a proponent of certain issues or of a definite ideology or of any particular policy—such as, say, helping most Americans achieve affordable health care.” Yet, Wicker observes, Bush fought hard to attain office, and fought hard for much of the privilege that would accrue to his children, including the current president. Though he may have been born, in Ann Richards’s famous quip, with a “silver foot in his mouth,” Bush was no stranger to hard work, and Wicker’s account gives reason to admire his accomplishments as a businessman who carved out a small empire for himself in the oil fields of West Texas, to say nothing of his bravery in combat during WWII. Wicker is less inclined to admire Bush’s political career, however; confronted with a notoriously hard-right Texas Republican Party in the age of Goldwater, Bush betrayed his moderate inclinations and “moved almost as far to the right as was Goldwater himself,” denouncing civil rights and then cluelessly wondering why Texas’s black voters did not embrace him. Bush’s subsequent appointments to diplomatic and civil service postings in places such as Beijing and Langley were uneventful, Wicker writes, and his spot on the Reagan ticket was a matter of political expediency; Reagan had to be lobbied hard to endorse Bush’s candidacy once the Gipper’s two terms were up. In office, Bush accomplished almost nothing and couldn’t seem to offer any reason for voters to return him to office—and so they didn’t.

In the end, Wicker offers little more than “a nice man with good connections”: perhaps not the worst president, though the acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak.

Pub Date: May 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03303-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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