A painstaking work of archival research that unearths little-known details of early Soviet history.

TO BREAK RUSSIA'S CHAINS

BORIS SAVINKOV AND HIS WARS AGAINST THE TSAR AND THE BOLSHEVIKS

A controversial figure in Russian history earns an impassioned, long-overdue treatment.

Alexandrov, a Yale professor of Slavic languages and author of The Black Russian (2013), among other titles, clearly admires Boris Savinkov (1879-1925), an anti-czarist revolutionary and assassin who later battled the Bolshevik takeover. Savinkov, writes the author, “dedicated his entire life to fighting to make Russia into a free, democratic republic.” This thoroughgoing biography builds his story with meticulous, novelistic detail, showing how Savinkov “was famous, and notorious, during his lifetime both at home and abroad because of the major roles he played in all the cataclysmic events that shook his homeland during the first quarter of the twentieth century.” Alexandrov chronicles his subject’s early life in a prosperous family of minor Russian nobility, the middle son of a judge stationed in Warsaw, where Savinkov spent his formative years, and his gradual radicalization at the turn of the century, in prison and then exile, dedicated to overthrowing the imperialist regime. Ultimately, his greatest success was carrying out the assassinations of Minister of the Interior Vyacheslav von Plehve in 1904 and the czar’s uncle Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich in 1905. After a period of living in Paris, writing novels, and struggling with money and marriages, the rest of Savinkov’s short life would be dedicated to resisting the Leninist takeover. Savinkov helped to build an army to fight against the Germans who were encroaching on Russian soil, and he also fought the Bolsheviks, who aimed to withdraw from World War I and envelop the nation in a form of authoritarianism that was different from—but no less lethal—that of the czar. The final chapter of his life still confounds historians: a voluntary return to Russia, imprisonment, and ultimately suicide. Throughout this fascinating historical biography, Alexandrov demonstrates his facility with the Soviet archives, delivering a scholarly yet accessible work perfect for library collections.

A painstaking work of archival research that unearths little-known details of early Soviet history.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-718-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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