Students of recent world history and of American power, hard and soft, will find this an endlessly fascinating study of...

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OUR MAN

RICHARD HOLBROOKE AND THE END OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY

The riveting life of a deeply flawed diplomat whose chief shortcoming seems to have been the need to be more recognized than he was.

New Yorker staff writer Packer (The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, 2013, etc.), winner of the National Book Award, was a friend of the diplomat and foreign policy specialist Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010), one of whose signal accomplishments was navigating through the endless difficulties of Balkan ethnic politics to negotiate peace in the former Yugoslavia. When it came to national interest versus universal principles of human rights and the like, “Holbrooke favored the former while making gestures toward the latter.” Still, faced with the ugly realities of such things as the Cambodian genocide, which, as one of the “best and the brightest” of the American technocrats in Vietnam, he bore some responsibility for, he stretched to accommodate justice. Serving one administration after another, Holbrooke accumulated friends and favors; he also made powerful enemies, and it was not always easy to tell one from the other. As a sometime outsider—he was descended from a Jewish immigrant named Golbraich—he desperately longed for power, wanting especially to rule over Foggy Bottom as Secretary of State. Alas, he did not achieve his aim, though Packer supposes he was worthy enough. Instead, he served other leaders, such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the latter of whom considered him disruptive. The author notes Holbrooke’s real accomplishments along the way, including founding an American cultural center in Germany and achieving delicate balancing acts in the intractable mess of Afghanistan. As Packer notes, he also had a “huge appetite for details [and] need to understand from the ground up," attributes that not every American diplomat shares. In the end, though egotistical and quick to be insulted, Holbrooke was also, by Packer’s absorbing account, highly capable.

Students of recent world history and of American power, hard and soft, will find this an endlessly fascinating study of character and events.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-307-95802-0

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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