Biographer Randall (Thomas Jefferson, 1993) adds another compelling figure to his portrait gallery of America's early leaders. It was one of the triumphs of Washington's life that, when stymied in one of his ambitions, he found an outlet for it elsewhere. Though frustrated, for instance, in his desire to become a career British army officer because of undistinguished service in the French and Indian War (he was accused of touching off the war by killing a French officer who may have been on a diplomatic mission), he learned how to defeat the British through speed and knowledge of the terrain by witnessing firsthand the defeat of his commander, Gen. Edward Braddock. With almost half of this account devoted to Washington's pre-Revolutionary life, Randall compresses the more consequential war and early Federal years, thus sacrificing some of the drama that galvanized his biography of Benedict Arnold. On the other hand, Randall shrewdly details how Washington's dealings with hostile foes and haughty allies in the French and Indian War and his secret alliances with other patriots made him ``a master of discretion and deception.'' He provides new insight into how Washington's growing awareness of the pitfalls of Virginia's tobacco economy led to disenchantment with the British mercantile system. Most important, he finds a thread between the prewar micromanaging plantation owner and the wartime ringmaster of intelligence units and surprise engagements like Trenton, discovering ``the first modern American corporate executive.'' While displaying a more dry-eyed willingness to countenance unpleasant actions than what one expects (e.g., ordering Arnold's assassination), this Washington is also moving in his renunciations of power at the end of the revolution and at the end of his second term as president. Not the landmark in storytelling and scholarship achieved by previous Washington biographers Douglas Southall Freeman and James Thomas Flexner, but an often penetrating narrative of Washington's formative influences.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-2779-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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 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...


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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