TRUMAN

A gargantuan but surprisingly agile and spellbinding biography of the plain-speaking, plain-dealing Man from Missouri. As depicted by McCullough (Brave Companions, 1991, etc.), Truman, though the first President of the nuclear era, was fundamentally a throwback to 19th-century midwestern ideals of honesty. Like the young Teddy Roosevelt in the author's Mornings on Horseback (1981), the pre-Presidential Truman most impresses McCullough as a battler against overwhelming odds: the failed farmer and haberdasher; the WW I captain who kept his unit together under deadly fire; and the scorned product of the Kansas City machine who won Senate colleagues' respect by chairing an investigation into WW II defense spending and winning a ferocious primary contest. With the stage thus set, the narrative picks up whirlwind force, following Truman from his assumption of the Presidency upon FDR's death—when "the sun, the moon, and the stars" seemed ready to fall on him—through the decisions to drop the atomic bomb; confront Stalin at Potsdam; send troops to Korea (the most important decision of his Presidency, Truman felt); and fire MacArthur. The book's main event, however, is the legendary "Whistle-Stop Campaign" of 1948, when Truman puffed off the political upset of the century. Readers jaded by Vietnam and Watergate may ask: Could any President be this serene, honest, and courageous? Yet McCullough weaves his spell, convincingly limning a politician who didn't lie, steal, pay attention to pollsters or pundits, or quail in the face of diplomatic or political combat (his major fault seems to have been excessive loyalty to cronies who betrayed his trust). Truman apparently really was, as his Secretary of State Dean Acheson said, the "captain with the mighty heart." Rich in detail, enthralling, and moving: a classic Presidential biography.

Pub Date: June 19, 1992

ISBN: 0-671-45654-7

Page Count: 1120

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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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