Of a piece with Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), though without its drama—serviceable, but really a...

DEVIL’S GATE

BRIGHAM YOUNG AND THE GREAT MORMON HANDCART TRAGEDY

Roberts (Sandstone Spine: Seeking the Anasazi on the First Traverse of the Comb Ridge, 2005, etc.) elaborates on a footnote to the history of westward expansion, excoriating the early leaders of Mormonism in the bargain.

Those leaders already have much to answer for, as Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History (1945) and Sally Denton’s American Massacre (2003) demonstrate. Roberts adds to the charges with this study of the handcart migration of 1856, an experiment that ended in tragedy. It involved mostly European immigrants recruited abroad for settlement in “Deseret,” the great Mormon territory twice the size of Texas, which speaks, in Roberts’s formulation, to “the grandiosity of Mormon ambitions.” Lacking the Conestoga wagons of earlier immigrants, which Mormon leader Brigham Young said the church could not afford, they had to traverse the 1,300 miles from Iowa to Utah, across prairies and mountains, using two-wheeled carts. As Roberts recounts, about 3,000 immigrants made the trek, the last contingents of them, numbering about 1,000, leaving late in the summer. Caught in early snowstorms in the Wyoming Rockies and worn down by the journey, some 220 died. By Roberts’s account, Young had received warning that the late-leaving parties were courting disaster, and, he writes, “The Prophet seems to have forgotten that in 1847 it had taken his hand-picked pioneer party, nearly all of whom were men in the prime of life, 108 days to travel from Winter Quarters [Nebraska] to the Great Salt Lake, over a trail three hundred miles shorter than the one the handcart pioneers would be required to traverse.” Following the deaths, others within the Mormon hierarchy were scapegoated. Roberts’s account is solid, but he oversimplifies in order to blame Young. Other historians, such as Leonard Arrington and Bernard DeVoto, have shown that there were many causes at work, including poor communications and the newly converted immigrants’ zeal to get to the promised land.

Of a piece with Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), though without its drama—serviceable, but really a magazine article plumped up to book length.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-3988-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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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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