A mostly breezy read through some undeniably challenging and threatening circumstances.

THE UNEXPECTED SPY

FROM THE CIA TO THE FBI, MY SECRET LIFE TAKING DOWN SOME OF THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS TERRORISTS

A former CIA agent chronicles her story.

While attending a career-day event with her sorority sisters at the University of Southern California, Walder stopped at a recruiting table for the CIA. One of her sisters challenged her, “ ‘I thought you wanted to be a history teacher.’…‘I did,’ I said. And then I thought, but making history would be way better than teaching it.” The author was certainly there when history was made. On 9/11, she was inside CIA headquarters in Langley when all the chatter they’d been hearing about Osama bin Laden exploded into specific tragedy. In this debut memoir, Walder brings a you-are-there intimacy to her accounts of visits from George Bush (“he was always kind and cracked jokes, even as the tension mounted”) and Thanksgiving dinner delivered by George Tenet (“the food was amazing”). Often, the author was the youngest person in the room and one of few females, and she suggests that her politics were more liberal than those of many of her colleagues. Throughout the narrative, she leaves no question about her devotion to the agency and how misunderstood she feels its role has been. (She submitted her manuscript for CIA vetting and made the decision to publish it with passages and even whole paragraphs redacted.) Indeed, Walder fiercely defends the CIA, particularly as the Bush administration focused its attention on Iraq rather than targeting terrorists elsewhere. Regarding the CIA’s being blamed for faulty intel about weapons of mass destruction, she writes, “not a single bit of anything my team turned in was faulty. How it was changed and twisted by the White House was faulty. The CIA did not betray the White House. The White House betrayed the CIA.” Walder subsequently shifted from the CIA to the FBI, which she liked a lot less and eventually left. She now teaches at an all-girls high school, helping new generations prepare to confront the institutional misogyny they will likely face.

A mostly breezy read through some undeniably challenging and threatening circumstances.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23098-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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