If only the “wrath of Michelle,” as it’s known, is the worst thing the staffers have to face. It’s not, though, and Kantor’s...

THE OBAMAS

A gossipy but mostly meaty look inside the Obama White House, a place less unified than one might expect—or hope.

New York Times Washington correspondent Kantor graduated to that position from the Arts & Leisure section, and it shows in her fascination with First Lady Michelle Obama’s fashion sense, about which we read a great deal, good and bad—good that Mrs. Obama has a fashion sense, bad in the sense that expensive clothing in a time of economic hardship gives the president’s enemies more fodder for complaining. Thus, after the midterms, “she still wore plenty of expensive labels, including designer gowns to formal evening events, but during the day there were more dresses from chain stores.” No one could complain about a $34.95 dress, after all—though of course they could, since a vigorous anti-Obama contingent in Washington is doing all it can to keep the president from fulfilling his ambitions and finds fault in everything he does. Here Sen. Mitch McConnell becomes a notable heavy of the piece. The best parts of Kantor’s book depict a White House beleaguered and harassed, a leader frustrated at being kept from pursuing what he had hoped would be a “post-partisan” style of governance. The book has already made news for its depiction of Mrs. Obama as a tough manager with a reputation for frostiness and impatience: “My staff worries a lot more about what the first lady thinks than they worry about what I think,” she reports President Obama as saying by way of a lead-in to some memorable conflicts with the likes of Robert Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel. Yet, given both Michelle Obama’s misgivings about the toll of political life on her family and the siege-fortress mood of the White House, her protective and decisive demeanor seems entirely understandable, especially given the president’s complementary “elusive, introverted” manner.

If only the “wrath of Michelle,” as it’s known, is the worst thing the staffers have to face. It’s not, though, and Kantor’s fly-on-the-wall view makes illuminating reading for an election year.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-09875-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more