A curious and lyrical study that touches on many important ideas, but often only glancingly.

IDIOPHONE

A recursive prose-poem contemplating addiction, dance, and the need for pathbreaking art.

In her latest, Fusselman (Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die, 2015, etc.) focuses on breaking with artistic tradition, and structurally, she tries to practice what she preaches. Though she doesn’t play with line breaks, she often deploys a one-sentence-per-paragraph method that gives a poetic aura to her observations—e.g., “Now my mother is frail. Now my mother is getting smaller. Now my mother’s bed is moving and she cannot sleep.” The author uses the object of the title—an instrument that sounds when struck—as a slippery metaphor for her art and being, encompassing her risk-taking as a drinker to Tchaikovsky’s open-minded approach to composing The Nutcracker. The work is interspersed with imagery of mice, cockroaches, bunnies, and tiny vehicles, serving as allegories of drinking, the author’s tense relationship with her mother, and Tchaikovsky, too. Well, maybe; if it all doesn’t entirely make sense, that serves her purpose just fine: “Why can’t more authors just abandon their lumbering storylines halfway through and move on to something more interesting, like dancing candy?” It’s not a hollow provocation: The best pieces of the work explore how The Nutcracker, now a drowsy Yuletide warhorse, was a radical creative act, inviting a rare dreamlike perspective to the stage, envisioning a blend of word and movement that, one interviewee tells Fusselman, died at the hands of the modernists. The author’s layering of her thematic ideas gives the book the feel of a mood piece—like a Steve Reich composition where riffs phase in and out—which makes it a pleasure on a sensual level. However, because she never lingers long on any one idea, readers may feel that there is much more to be said about motherhood, alcoholism, art, and physicality than is being delivered.

A curious and lyrical study that touches on many important ideas, but often only glancingly.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56689-513-2

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more