Popular history in a triumphant mode, of interest largely to Reagan partisans.

THREE DAYS IN MOSCOW

RONALD REAGAN AND THE FALL OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE

Fox News anchor Baier (Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission, 2017, etc.) makes a cheerful case for Ronald Reagan’s single-handedly talking the Soviets out of being communists.

Reagan liked to be thought of as a political outsider, but “he wasn’t really.” He had governing experience as the two-term chief executive of California and a network of supporters within the federal government, and he “had evolved as a public persona who could articulate the issues of the day.” After a difficult period of folded-arm posturing back and forth between his White House and the Kremlin, with a few results hard-won at the arms-reduction talks in Reykjavik, Reagan and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, developed something of a working relationship by which long-closed doors opened up. One of them came in the form of an invitation to Reagan to speak to an audience at Moscow State University; in the speech he delivered on May 31, 1988, he spoke hopefully, as was his wont, of new possibilities: “Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists.” Baier’s three-days narrative trope doesn’t stand up to close examination, and his suggestion that the Iron Curtain began to rust away the minute Reagan stepped off the podium is a little too pat; he sometimes seems to forget that, after all, Gorbachev was doing his part to end the Cold War, too. To his credit, the author does note the considerable amount of shuttle diplomacy that extended from Reagan’s second term into the incoming administration of George H.W. Bush, a skilled player on the international stage. Still, a more evenhanded and altogether better account can be found in Richard Reeves’ President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination (2005) and H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life (2015).

Popular history in a triumphant mode, of interest largely to Reagan partisans.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274836-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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