Although her batty and unhinged relatives emerge more vividly than her taciturn husband, Fuller’s talent as a storyteller...

LEAVING BEFORE THE RAINS COME

Fuller (Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, 2012, etc.) resumes her memories of growing up in Africa in this wry, forthright and captivating memoir.

This time, the focus is on the slow unraveling of her marriage to a man she thought would save her from her family’s madness and chaos. Except for her father’s insistence that his children bathe and dress formally for dinner—a gesture toward discipline that emerged nowhere else—Fuller’s childhood was as wild as the Zambian landscape. Her father made “absolute, capricious, and patriarchal” rules. Boredom, he announced, was “the worst possible sin.” Despite, or perhaps because of, his idiosyncrasies and contradictions, the author idolized him. Her mother, with a family history of mental instability, often succumbed to “long, solo voyages into her dark, grief-disturbed interior,” fueled by alcohol. Resembling her physically, Fuller feared that along with “all that Scottish passion,” she might inherit madness, as well: “how could I have skipped the place where her ingenuity and passion sat too close to insanity on the spiraling legacy of heritage?” Unsurprisingly, she married an adventurous, dependable man who she thought would provide stability and order. Her husband “was the perfect rescuer,” she writes, “and I the most relieved and grateful rescue victim.” After a few years in Africa, they moved to America, where living was easier (dependable electricity and running water, for example), unthreatened by political uprisings or rampaging elephants. They had children, but financial pressures, especially after 2008, and her own loneliness gradually took a toll: “Ours had contracted into a grocery-list relationship—finances, children, housekeeping.” To reclaim her life, she insisted on divorce.

Although her batty and unhinged relatives emerge more vividly than her taciturn husband, Fuller’s talent as a storyteller makes this memoir sing.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1594205866

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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