A graceful, wonderfully written memoir that’s sure to please Ansay’s fiction fans—as well as readers of confessional and...

LIMBO

A MEMOIR

After four novels (Vinegar Hill, 1994, etc.) and one story collection, Ansay debuts in nonfiction with a thoughtful memoir of affliction and redemption.

Ansay trained throughout childhood and adolescence to become a concert pianist, but by the time she was 20 her ambition was thwarted by a paralyzing illness that left her unable to walk—or to play. Doctors were mystified by her condition, which may have had something to do with an on-and-off bout of strep throat but certainly wasn’t helped by a punishing routine of musical training. (“Injuries were commonplace,” she writes, “particularly among pianists, particularly among female pianists. A girl one floor down from me fractured her arm landing a Beethoven chord.”) Confined to a wheelchair for the past 15 years, Ansay has transferred her energies from music to writing, becoming a favorite of Oprah and midwestern booksellers alike. Her memoir touches on these matters, but it spends greater time exploring, with considerable grace and clarity, matters of the spirit. Purgatorial lessons such as hers are taught, she writes, because “God is simply testing you, testing the condition of your Faith.” As she revisits her own suffering, she recalls that of her mother, who grew up working in the fields before the age of seven but spent her Sundays singing in the choir. Though she occasionally slips into self-indulgence, Ansay shies from self-pity. Indeed, most of her madeleines are recalled in fine humor, as when she recounts her first childhood lesson in learning how to lie: “At school, if somebody asked what I’d had for breakfast, and I’d had eggs, I’d say, ‘Cereal.’ Why? Just because I could.” That’s an essential talent for a writer, of course, and Ansay has cultivated hers well.

A graceful, wonderfully written memoir that’s sure to please Ansay’s fiction fans—as well as readers of confessional and inspirational literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17286-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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