This hefty volume of writings by one of the original Beyond the Fringe members reveals the contours and continuities in Bennett's seemingly haphazard subsequent career as a playwright and screenwriter (most recently for The Madness of King George). These talks, diaries, book reviews, and bagatelles were written mostly for the London Review of Books, a venue amenable to the self-proclaimed ``soft centrist'' writer, whose compassion and intelligence come through vividly in this wonderful collection. In autobiographical essays, the butcher's son from Leeds neither wallows in his working-class roots nor discards them wholesale at the altar of high culture. A number of memoirs here record his uneasy entrance into the academic and cultural worlds, where he has always felt a bit awkward and embarrassed. He fondly eulogizes TV performer Russell Harty and his producer at the BBC, Innes Lloyd. His diaries of working on his plays, Forty Years On most prominent among them, include great theatrical anecdotes, especially about John Gielgud. Bennett's fondness for neurotic Czech Franz Kafka and grumpy librarian Philip Larkin leads to a number of essays and reviews. The lengthy selections from Bennett's diaries, mostly from the '80s, give vent to his distaste for Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch; chronicle a writer's conference in Moscow, a mugging in NYC, and his endless arguments with himself. The longest batch of entries tell the amazing story of a slightly deranged old woman who lived in a van in Bennett's driveway for 15 years. Fascinated by the sex lives of others, Bennett is coy about his own, relying on a faux sense of decorum that's much like his affected philistinism. Some satirical bits remind us most enjoyably of Bennett's skills as a writer for stage, TV, and the big screen. Chatty, modest, and always entertaining. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-44489-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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 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...


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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