A disarmingly earnest portrait of an enigmatic figure.

THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD

AN ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE OF POPPA NEUTRINO

The life and times of itinerant wanderer and vagabond extraordinaire David Pearlman, better known in some circles as Poppa Neutrino.

Longtime New Yorker contributor Wilkinson (Mr. Apology, 2003, etc.) writes about yet another creative eccentric. Early chapters are devoted to stories from Neutrino’s younger days, during which he engaged in fist fights in seedy bars; led a band of followers dubbed the “Salvation Navy” across the country while performing odd jobs to survive; and sailed across the Atlantic on a homemade raft in the company of his wife and two friends. The narrative is interspersed with the author’s interactions with Neutrino as well as their phone conversations. Among the highlights of their times together are visits to college and high-school football coaches to whom Neutrino attempts to pitch an idea that he believes will revolutionize football (it involves allowing quarterbacks and receivers to communicate during the action), as well as his attempt to build a new raft for a voyage across the Pacific. As the author points out, Neutrino is not necessarily the sort of man to draw the envy or admiration of others; much of his life has been spent struggling to survive generally self-imposed poverty. He is, however, an adaptable and intriguingly free spirit, determined to liberate himself from the constraints of the material world. Wilkinson sometimes spends too much time pontificating on the significance of his subject’s actions, but he makes up for it with his deft handling of dialogue and his talent for pacing.

A disarmingly earnest portrait of an enigmatic figure.

Pub Date: March 20, 2007

ISBN: 1-4000-6543-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2006

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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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