That makes for an absorbing story, too, and Rhodes (Masters of Death, 2002, etc.) tells it surpassingly well. Outstanding.

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON

THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN

The Pulitzer-winning historian and biographer finds a pleasing subject in an American original: the traveler, chronicler, scientist, painter, and entrepreneur whose name remains legend.

Jean Rabin—his name until he was eight—was born out of wedlock, and though his father and his wife welcomed him into their home in Nantes, all were aware that “in France bastard children were denied inheritance.” Not so in America, to which the renamed, 18-year-old John James Audubon came in 1803, “lean and athletic, unselfconsciously vain . . . his beak of a nose most certifiably French.” He was charged with tending to his father’s business interests, but, Rhodes writes, he had little talent for the work—and besides, he wanted nothing more than “to complete a collection [of ornithological illustrations] not only valuable to the scientific class, but pleasing to every person.” He was single-minded in this devotion, driven, Rhodes suggests in a moment of psychologizing, by a desire “literally to revivify the dead.” Luckily, he found time to wed a singularly patient young English woman, Lucy Bakewell, who traveled with him across the Appalachians to establish a general store, scarcely complaining about the hardships of the journey, even if she did lament that in frontier Louisville, “there is no library here or bookstore . . . and as Mr. Audubon is constantly at the store I should often enjoy a book very much whilst I am alone.” The great virtue here is not so much in giving a thorough, modern life of Audubon, which Shirley Streshinsky did with her Audubon: Life and Art in the American Wilderness (1993); it is in making Lucy Audubon a full partner in the enterprise, if neglected to the point of near abandonment while her husband cultivated his art and his fame, consciously crafting an image as definitively American—at least as far as his European patrons were concerned—as Daniel Boone’s.

That makes for an absorbing story, too, and Rhodes (Masters of Death, 2002, etc.) tells it surpassingly well. Outstanding.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-41412-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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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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