MORGAN

AMERICAN FINANCIER

A superbly researched, well-written biography of a great—and, in the author’s view, somewhat misrepresented—figure in American history. J. Pierpont Morgan’s (1837—1913) every touch, it seemed, yielded pure gold. Some of his contemporaries admired his skill at making money, whereas most others despised him. Bancroft Prize-winning biographer Strouse (Alice James, 1980) writes that their disdain, fueled by populist and progressive views, has colored the historical take on Morgan such that he’s seen “as an icon of capitalist greed”—as mere robber baron and plutocrat. She paints a far more complex portrait of someone who, she argues, deserves to be rated as the chief architect of American industrial democracy. At his death, Morgan was the world’s most prominent banker; he—d overseen the economic restructuring of America from a debtor nation into self-sufficiency; he built railroads, engineered the mergers of huge corporations (to form, for instance, US Steel), and surrounded himself with rare works of art and literature, now housed in some of the nation’s leading museums and libraries. He accomplished all this, says Strouse, with a forceful intellect and a strong character—but also by taking any number of ethical shortcuts: He amassed an early fortune, for example, through profiteering in the Civil War. The author recognizes that Morgan’s critics, then as now, had reason to resent the man; after all, he controlled a huge share of the international economy and did much to break unions and thwart the ambitions of workers’ organizations. He showed little regard for “class conflicts and social problems,” and evidently believed that “his financial expertise conferred political prerogatives, and that his larger concerns took precedence over the interests of the people who opposed him.” Still, Strouse gives us an eminently human version of Morgan as a man guided always by profit but not without a sense of of social responsibility, a figure who, for good or ill, contributed in many ways to the structure of the modern world. Especially at a time when American wealth and monopoly again reign, this life of a notable dollar-diplomat is most welcome. (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-50166-5

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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