MY NAME ESCAPES ME

THE DIARY OF A RETIRING ACTOR

An amiable if unsurprising daily diary (covering all of 1995 and half of 1996) from the great British thespian. Now in his 80s and almost completely retired from stage and screen, Guinness (Blessings in Disguise, 1986) seems content to go gently into that good night. His days are pleasantly routine; he reads the morning papers, feeds the fish in his pond, walks with his dogs, and enjoys the occasional jaunt into London. After the cocktail hour and a hearty supper, he curls up with a good book or a BBC documentary on the telly. Occasionally he takes a flutter on the national lottery, hoping to hit it big and go on an art-buying spree. But the greatest excitement is provided by brief holidays on the continent. It's all very, very British, and undemanding anglophiles will find much to revel in here. On the evidence of the diary, it's clear that Guinness would make an admirable, extremely genial dinner guest, charming, intellectually curious, with a nice supply of mildly amusing anecdotes. But the general effect here is as comfortably worn as an old pair of slippers. Age is the great enemy of actors—it destroys the crucial ability to remember their lines, reducing them to smaller and smaller roles. This, and diminished energies, are why Guinness now rejects almost all the offers that come his way. Whether it's British phlegm or stoicism or both, he calmly suffers the many insults and indignities of his aging body—his blind eye, his diminished hearing, etc. In contrast to the memoirs of many American actors, there is little egocentrism and a great deal of intelligence and aesthetic sensitivity here, as well as a keenly literate style. Guinness truly enjoys good books, music, and art, and he remains an active playgoer. His diary may not make for gripping material, but it does seem to suggest an ideal way to spend one's retirement.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-87589-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1997

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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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