TOP SERGEANT

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SERGEANT MAJOR OF THE ARMY WILLIAM G. BAINBRIDGE

The dull-as-dishwater memoirs of a good soldier who rose through the ranks to become the US Army's top noncommissioned officer. Bainbridge enlisted shortly after graduating from high school in 1943. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was taken prisoner by German troops toward the close of 1944. Released at the end of WW II, he returned to his midwestern roots to resume farming. Recalled to active service for the Korean conflict, Bainbridge never left the States. He did, though, acquire a taste for the military life and decided to stay in. Bainbridge (as much a bureaucrat as a warrior) made steady progress in his chosen profession. Following a Vietnam tour, he was given increasingly responsible assignments at a host of duty stations in the US and overseas. In 1975, the author was named Sergeant Major of the Army, a Pentagon-based post he was the first to hold for four years. Mustered out of his beloved Army after 31 years of active service, the ex-noncom (who will turn 70 this year) spent the next 12 years as secretary to the board of commissioners for the US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C. Nominally retired, Bainbridge still travels to reunions and armed-forces conferences. Cursed with total recall, he burdens his narrative with inane particulars and minutiae (e.g., detailed rundowns on the quarters he occupied at bases throughout the world, guest lists for long-gone receptions, the routes taken on inspection tours or to reach new duty stations) and heavy-handed tributes to erstwhile COs and colleagues. Save for recurrent assurances about taking good care of the rank and file, he (and Cragg, coauthor of Inside the VC and the NVA, 1992) seldom assess anything remotely resembling a big picture. Autobiographical trivia with all the dramatic appeal of a DoD travel order. (8 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-449-90892-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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