Ambitious, but the self-absorption wears thin.

THE SPARKLING-EYED BOY

A MEMOIR OF LOVE, GROWN UP

Painfully self-conscious, often pretentious meditations on first love.

Debut author Benson’s family had a summer cabin on the shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a place of magical delight where every moment and sensation was treasured. The other nine months of Benson’s girlhood years were spent in Detroit, where time was suspended until life picked up again in the summer. The author regarded their summer place as home; they had family connections to it, and it has continued, she writes, to “dictate . . . what was both beautiful and true.” Benson fished, swam, and picked berries there. For many years the nameless boy with the sparkling eyes was one of the many local guys who were always around. But one summer when she was in her teens, he gave Benson a letter declaring his interest in her. She was cautious about responding, and after she did, their relationship over several long summers was loving but chaste. It effectively ended when Benson went off to college. Shortly afterward, she heard that he had married and was still living where he grew up. Now in her early 30s, Benson describes how she began regularly dreaming of the sparkling-eyed boy; in these dreams he berated her for failing to keep in touch, and she scolded him for marrying. She recalls meeting the man and his wife in later years, her parents’ divorce, her eating disorders, and her conflicted feelings about the boy and love. The carefully wrought prose evokes with conscious lyricism such perennials of the picturesque as sunsets and water views, but it turns curiously lifeless and emotionally tepid when examining the boy and her love for him. Benson works hard, but not convincingly, to explain her attraction both to permanence and to the temporality that probably shaped her feelings.

Ambitious, but the self-absorption wears thin.

Pub Date: June 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-618-43321-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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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