THE LAST LION

WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL: VISIONS OF GLORY, 1874-1932

Together, Churchill and Manchester—the lion and the lionizer, the quotable and the quoter, the anecdoted and the anecdotist—can hardly miss in the marketplace. Even those who know better may find 900 pp. of juicy Churchilliana hard to pass up. This is extravagance, however, with a motive. When Manchester writes that Churchill, after Dunkirk, "spoke. . . to the English people as no one had before or ever would again," he has in mind the end of Empire, and the romantic, bellicose, paternalistic Churchill as its last great embodiment. It's a splendid theme, at any rate, for a spectacle—with flares shooting off in all directions. Churchill, to Manchester, is a 19th-century man—but also the inventor of the tank and an early champion of air power (on both of which M. has fine, fresh material). He's a consummate politician, a hopeless politician. (Similarly, Stanley Baldwin is "a shrewder politician than Churchill" on p. 784; "in his long career"—on p. 799—"Baldwin did few clever things.") "As a youth [Churchill] decided that the great issues of his time would be decided on the battlefield." As a child, he suppressed his rage against his parents, turning his hostility inward, becoming a depressive; in war, he found an outlet for his aggression and, in bolshevism and Hitler, worthy enemies, The book is erratic, inconsistent, undiscriminating in other respects too. To absolve Churchill of blame for Gallipoli (a major stress), Manchester cites Rhodes James and Liddell Hart—the best of sources; to fill out his murderous portraits of mother Jennie and especially father Randolph, he leans on Frank Harris (and can't understand why people don't credit Harris' tale of how RC contracted syphilis). He writes sniggeringly of Jennie's lovers (and other sexual matters—referring repeatedly, for instance, to "the expensive Dutch cup" and other contraceptive curiosa)—but he also provides a sparkling account of young Winston's Kaiser Wilhelm/Crystal Palace weekend with Count Kinsky. Periodically, he catalogues what's-going-on-in-Britain: a paragraph on the theater, sheer writerly legerdemain ("At his Majesty's Theatre you could see . . ."), climaxes in a crackling bit of WC/GBS badinage. The book has no proportion; but except as political history, it does have the virtues of its excesses. In a curious way, however, Manchester's massively detailed glorification of Churchill has the same effect as Robert Caro's recent, massively detailed damnation of Lyndon Johnson: it sets up counter-currents. We are reminded of Churchill's dogged intervention in the Russian civil war and, subsequently, of "his visceral reaction against socialism—he was always mistaking pink for red." We're reminded, apropos of his fight against Indian self-government (which Manchester tries hard to justify), of his lifelong racial prejudice. The book ends, in 1932, with Lady Astor's assurance to Hitler: "Churchill? . . . Oh, he's finished." As a curtain-line, terrific (if unsubtle). But Manchester may also have demonstrated, by this omnium-gatherum, why Churchill's greatness lay in wartime leadership.

Pub Date: May 2, 1983

ISBN: 0385313489

Page Count: 996

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983

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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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