An exuberantly inquisitive collection of essays.



Kumar (English/Vassar Coll.; A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna, 2014, etc.) reflects on an eclectic array of personal, professional, and political topics.

The 26 essays included in this collection represent what the author calls “memorial acts” dedicated to “examining the borders of the self” in relation to the world. Published over a period of 15 years, these pieces, which run the gamut from memoir to journalistic reportage to literary/cultural criticism, chart Kumar’s evolution as a distinguished Indian-American thinker and writer. In the first of four sections that comprise the book, the author recounts his experiences growing up in a culture where paper was a near-sacred object and where books and libraries were considered the height of “worldliness.” His own intellectual coming of age began after he arrived in the West as a student and became exposed to the mischievously subversive work of such writers as Hanif Kureishi and, later, Salman Rushdie, both of whom offered Kumar new ways of conceptualizing South Asian selfhood. In the second section, he considers his own writing, exploring how his work has been influenced by everything from Bollywood cinema to his life as a husband and doting father. He also discusses the disciplined habits that shaped him as a writer. In the third section, Kumar meditates on the effects that travel, migration, and immigration have had on his ideas about the nature of being in a transnational world. Time and space become conflated so that a return to India means he becomes “a tourist in that country called the past.” In the final section, Kumar examines people, including his mother, New York taxi drivers, and a conservative Hindu extremist—the  “bigot” to which the title refers—who denounced Kumar for marrying a Pakistani Muslim. Heterogeneous and complex, this book offers insight into Indian culture from a multitude of complex spaces between East and West.

An exuberantly inquisitive collection of essays.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8223-5930-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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 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...


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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