Hutton’s exhortations seem best addressed to isolationists in both countries—an audience unlikely to be moved by them. For a...




A middling effort at reconciling the interests of the Middle Kingdom and Middle America.

China and the U.S. regard each other with distrust and suspicion. Granted, China is a communist police state and the U.S. is a capitalistic behemoth; yet, writes British journalist Hutton (A Declaration of Interdependence, 2003, etc.), the countries benefit each other, with China responsible for having bettered the American standard of living through cheaper prices and the U.S. responsible for having provided China with its larger export window onto the outside world. Hutton notably argues that fewer American (and European) jobs have been lost to China than has been reported; of more importance, he stresses, is “the massive redistribution of income from the bottom 99 percent to the top 1 percent,” which impoverishes Western workers. The point Hutton makes is a useful one, but he also engages in wishful thinking by urging China to embrace Enlightenment values that have long “endowed western societies with the idea of the public realm” and of other democratic virtues, presumably through a European “model of capitalism that is more attractive than the American.” A multiparty system of government may be a desideratum for a better world, but it seems unlikely, as Hutton acknowledges, that the ever more conservative Central Committee will allow such a development willingly. Although the author hopes for cooperation and free trade, it seems more likely that the West and China will nurse political and economic rivalries for some time to come, given that Enlightenment values seem to be ever scarcer in many Western quarters, too.

Hutton’s exhortations seem best addressed to isolationists in both countries—an audience unlikely to be moved by them. For a more nuanced view, see James Kynge’s China Shakes the World (2006).

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-7528-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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