Vintage Manguel—a pleasure for his many readers and admirers.

PACKING MY LIBRARY

AN ELEGY AND TEN DIGRESSIONS

The archbibliophile writes nostalgically of his “last library,” the most recent of a succession of collections that have defined him over a lifetime.

Now director of the National Library in his native Argentina, a post formerly held by Jorge Luis Borges, Manguel (Curiosity, 2015, etc.) professes to a certain discomfort at public libraries: he values the materiality of having one’s own books in which there is no guilt taken in writing in the margins. He wholly endorses Petrarch’s observation, “I feel that I have never enough books.” Departing from Walter Benjamin’s famed essay on “unpacking the library,” Manguel writes of the heartbreaking challenge of boxing up the 35,000 volumes he housed in the Loire Valley of France, “a fantastic creature made up of the several libraries built up and then abandoned, over and over again, throughout my life.” Benjamin had to abandon his own library under more fraught circumstances, a step ahead of the Nazis, but that does not diminish the elegiac quality of Manguel’s slender book, made up of a main essay punctuated by 10 “digressions” that take in love of the book among peoples of the book, Shakespeare, Callimachus, and other tropes of bibliophilia and bibliomania. Borges figures, of course, and his spirit is always close to the main text as well, especially as Manguel takes up residence in the library in Buenos Aires and finds himself not just the book lover and writer of old, but also “accountant, technician, lawyer, architect, electrician, psychologist, diplomat, sociologist, specialist in union politics, technocrat, cultural programmer, and, of course, administrator of actual library matters.” Add philosopher to that list, for the author closes with a meditation on what books have to say about how our lives are lived and governed, with a reminder that they “are reminders of better things, of hope and consolation and compassion.” The tropes are well-worn, but the author brings a fresh hopefulness to the enterprise of books and reading.

Vintage Manguel—a pleasure for his many readers and admirers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-300-21933-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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