Discomfiting, but memorable.



“When it began to feel as though my life had become defined by a series of divides,” writes cultural journalist Busch (Geography of Home, 1999, etc.), “it seemed to be the time to take a swim.”

Divided from a close friend by death, from her twin sons by the impenetrable fog of adolescence, the pushing-50 author wanted to “find a divide that could be crossed.” So on August 29, 2001, she swam across the Hudson River. Less than two weeks later, the World Trade Center towers fell. After that, Busch explains, she decided “to begin each autumn by swimming across a river, some small, personal trial by water that could secure safe passage into the coming year.” By 2005 she had traveled to nine rivers and swum across eight, discovering along the way stories of transformation and renewal. Beginning close to home in New York, then moving west to the Mississippi, Busch captures the character and history of each river. She draws on the writings of Least Heat-Moon, Edward Abbey, Mark Twain and Bill Bryson, among others; the technical expertise of engineers; the practical knowledge of park rangers, campers and assorted river lovers, including Pete Seeger; and her own observations and impressions. We learn that the sweet-flavored Hudson flows both north and south, that the Delaware has swift currents, boulders and deep pools, that the Susquehanna is unnaturally warm. The beautiful Connecticut River has black silt; the busy Mississippi and the Monongahela rivers are brown and muddy; the Cheat and Current rivers are clear and green. Forethought, research and careful planning generally preceded Busch’s ventures, except for a projected swim across the Ohio, derailed by reliance on luck and happenstance. Her friend Onni was usually her swimming partner, and on heavily trafficked rivers a raft or boat accompanied her for safety. In the deepest sense, however, these were solitary journeys exploring an internal landscape as well as connecting to the natural world around her.

Discomfiting, but memorable.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59691-045-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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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 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 19, 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...


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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