In the end, in an irony she would have appreciated, another biographer has mapped Dickinson’s outer world without leaving...

MY WARS ARE LAID AWAY IN BOOKS

THE LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON

A biography of the elusive Belle of Amherst (1830–86) that celebrates her imaginative witchery and triumph over adversity without penetrating her enigma.

Because her sister fulfilled Emily Dickinson’s request to burn her correspondence after her death, biographers experience considerable difficulty in sounding the deep currents of her life. To establish how she became so reclusive, Habegger (The Father: A Life of Henry James, Sr., 1994) is at great pains to delve into her family—sometimes excessively so (the poet’s birth does not occur until page 72). Her father, Edward Dickinson, a lawyer and one-term Whig congressman, was as zealous in guarding his children against all physical and financial danger as he was in claiming that women had no intellectual powers worth exercising. Her brother Austin, who lived with his wife next door to Edward and Emily, was too narrowly egotistical to appreciate Emily’s writing and in later years embarked on an affair that affected posthumous publication of her work. Deaths involving close relatives and friends when she was young led Dickinson into existential doubt about God’s justice, making her the lone family holdout from the local Congregational Church. Given these circumstances, Habegger plausibly suggests, Emily “perfected the art of living separately in close proximity,” discovering boundless independence and creative freedom even as her outer world contracted. Using extensive research on her associations, he adroitly analyzes Dickinson’s intense attachments: friendships with fellow schoolgirls, relationships with male intellectuals such as Atlantic Monthly editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and particularly her late-blooming romance with Otis Phillips Lord, an elderly jurist and friend of her father. Yet, despite his chronological organization, Habegger never helps the reader get a handle on the stages of Dickinson’s development as poet and adult, and he sometimes dismisses claims of earlier Dickinson scholars without offering an equally adequate explanation for events.

In the end, in an irony she would have appreciated, another biographer has mapped Dickinson’s outer world without leaving adequate markers for her interior landscape.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2001

ISBN: 0-679-44986-8

Page Count: 896

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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