GOODBYE, DARKNESS

A MEMOIR OF THE PACIFIC WAR

We couldn't, thinks ex-Marine Sergeant Manchester, take Tarawa again (or Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima or Okinawa): today's young wouldn't plod "patiently on and on"—chest-deep in water, weapons over their heads, keeping formation"—while their comrades were keeling over on all sides." That isn't the only message of Manchester's return, in memory and in person, to Pacific battlegrounds, but it's the one that forces a yea or nay from the reader—while one can easily remain indifferent to (even skeptical of) Manchester's personal quest for the reason he left a hospital bed, before Okinawa, to rejoin his men: it was—climax-of-book—"an act of love." The entire reconnaissance, he says, was touched off by the appearance in his dreams of his young, tough, uncompromising self reproaching his present "portly, Brooks-Brothered" mid-fifties self: "what had happened in the third of a century since he had laid down his arms?" We then back up to the distinguished Manchester lineage; his (wounded) Marine veteran father and Old-Southern mother; his timid, picked-on childhood; his auspicious start at Amherst; his early enlistment in the Marines, love of rugged Parris Island, hatred of competitive Quantico OCS (he wittingly washed out); his hookup with the "military misfits"—most of them "liberal arts majors from old eastern colleges"—whose sergeant he was slated to be; and his two pre-embarkation attempts to lose his virginity (both aborted—one in party by "my outsize genitalia"—and neither quite credible). Also worked into the foregoing are the attack on Pearl Harbor, the loss of the Philippines, and the Herculean securing of New Guinea—which brings the Pacific War, and Manchester's unit, to Guadalcanal. And whatever one thinks of both stories-so-far (or of the coupling—a kind of personalized pop history), the subsequent chronicle of debilitating jungle warfare on one after another "dumb island" (as a fed-up Marine put it) has an undeniable impact—not because the botched landing at Tarawa, for instance, is news, but because time has diminished neither the horror nor Manchester's outrage. At first, too, his reference to the Japanese as "Japs" or "Nips" rankles; and one recoils when he writes, early on, "thank God for the atomic bomb." But his description of Japanese tactics—first the suicide attacks, then the suicidal last stands—demonstrates why he's still appalled at the prospect of storming mainland Japan. Similarly, what he finds on these islands now is of varying interest or noteworthiness (the native culture corrupted; Japanese tourists and/or businessmen) until he reaches Saipan, where Allied forces first encountered Japanese civilians; at the island's fall, all 18,000 hurled themselves off two cliffs . . . and their bodies are still being recovered and cremated, so the ashes can be returned to Japan. The eventual death of most of Manchester's men on Okinawa's Sugar Loaf is more immediate but not more unnerving. And his farewell to his Sergeant-self—atop today's built-over Sugar-Loaf—seems if anything a cheapening artifice. As for the upright, moral, industrious pre-WW II America that he deems responsible for his generation's sacrifice, it will not be recognized by many of his contemporaries ("Mothers were beloved, fathers obeyed"; "To accept unemployment compensation, had it existed, would have been considered humiliating"); and to Americans of any age, it might appear a misguided ideal. But one can dissent from much of this and still be shaken.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1980

ISBN: 0316501115

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980

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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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