An intensely readable, fully explored account of what the New York Times called an “ordeal by committee,” an important hinge...

SHOWDOWN

THURGOOD MARSHALL AND THE SUPREME COURT NOMINATION THAT CHANGED AMERICA

Longtime journalist and biographer Haygood (The Butler: A Witness to History, 2013, etc.), whose previous subjects have included Sammy Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr., examines the confirmation battle over the first African-American nominated to the Supreme Court.

During the summer of 1967, Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) appeared for an unprecedented fifth day before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This confrontation between arguably the most consequential appellate attorney ever and the “Old Bulls” who dominated the interrogating panel is both the spine of Haygood’s narrative and the occasion for a number of ancillary stories that lend blood and guts to the superficial civilities of a Senate hearing. So we learn about Lyndon Johnson’s backstage maneuvering, first to create an opening on the court and second, to devise a backup plan in case Marshall’s nomination faltered; Marshall’s surprisingly good rapport with J. Edgar Hoover and testy relations with Robert Kennedy; Marshall’s early life and undergraduate career (he was a classmate of Langston Hughes); his legal training under famed mentors Charles Hamilton Houston and William Hastie; his work for the NAACP and the signal civil rights cases that made his reputation; his controversial interracial marriage; publisher Henry Luce’s threat to Southern senators who held up Marshall’s earlier nomination to the court of appeals; and the extraordinary scrutiny accorded Marshall compared to previous Supreme Court nominees. Most interesting is Haygood’s presentation of the Southern Democrats—Arkansas’ John McClellan, Mississippi’s James Eastland, North Carolina’s Sam Ervin—who considered Marshall “a public enemy of the South” and who strove to embarrass him before the nation and to expose him as dangerous and ill-suited to the high court. The author’s almost wholly admiring portrait of Marshall unfortunately includes some occasionally excessive or inexact language, but the stories are so good the author is easily forgiven.

An intensely readable, fully explored account of what the New York Times called an “ordeal by committee,” an important hinge in American history.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-307-95719-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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