Though presented with a pro-Roosevelt tilt, this is history solidly researched and engagingly written. However, it is...

THE SPHINX

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, THE ISOLATIONISTS, AND THE ROAD TO WORLD WAR II

Ambiguity and uncertainty are major themes in this examination of Franklin Roosevelt's leadership in the years before Pearl Harbor.

What's a politician to do? In 1941, 70 percent of the American public favored backing Britain against Hitler, even at the risk of war; 70 percent of the same public wanted to stay out of that war, encouraged by such prominent figures as Charles Lindbergh and the American ambassador to Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy. A year earlier, attitudes were much the same. Roosevelt became convinced that he needed to remain in the White House for an unprecedented third term to bring about the rearmament of a reluctant nation. Somehow, he had to engineer his nomination and election without providing an opening for a challenger from the isolationist wing of his own party. In this elegantly written account, Newsweek international editor Wapshott (Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics, 2012, etc.) depicts Roosevelt sowing confusion by encouraging no-hope candidates while remaining coy about his own future. As Britain's prospects deteriorated, he pushed constantly against the boundaries of the Neutrality Act with every ploy he could imagine, all the while denying any desire to take America to war—though his actual objectives remain uncertain to this day. The villains of the piece are Lindbergh, an anti-Semitic fascist sympathizer whose authoritative overestimates of Nazi strength bolstered those who argued that resistance to Hitler was futile, and Kennedy, an articulate, principled proponent of this defeatism. Though clearly no fan of the noninterventionists, Wapshott showcases their arguments with sufficient clarity to show that, while they proved to be on the wrong side of history, some of their concerns about the evolution of a permanently militarized state with an overweening executive have proved prescient.

Though presented with a pro-Roosevelt tilt, this is history solidly researched and engagingly written. However, it is well-surveyed territory, and the author brings little genuinely new to the discussion.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0393088885

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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