Long on inventiveness but short on substance.


Ephemera from the life of a children’s book author.

In her latest book for grown-ups, Rosenthal (Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, 2005, etc.) again organizes stories of her life into something like a reference book or textbook. The author largely eschews written narrative in favor of a broad smattering of tables, graphs, drawings, photos, a guitar chord progression, a recipe, a dream, a Venn diagram, and more. Section headings like Geography, History, and Math divide and contain these tidbits along with mildly interesting thoughts and anecdotes: a moment's conjecture at who her husband is on the phone with, her faulty interpretation of a magazine article, her decision to leave an unopened packet of honey on the passenger-side floor of her car. One page reads, "When I came back from India, I was absolutely, positively 100% sure I was going to use a lot of turmeric." The book is light; white space abounds. Perhaps aware of this, Rosenthal leaps from the page into her readers’ digital lives, inviting them to text her for various multimedia experiences: three audio renditions of a humming wineglass or a poem read by the deceased poet Kenneth Koch. There is one anomalous short story in the Romance section that, despite its brevity (or because of it), is a moving tale of life, love, and anagrams. Readers who approach this book as a collection of thought experiments will find intermittent inspiration. Photos of two ice cubes—one from the waters of Lake Michigan, the other containing tea from a restaurant—poignantly commemorate moments with her children, and in “The Piñata Experiment,” the author instructs the reader to hang a candy-filled piñata near a baseball field and wait for the object's discovery by Little Leaguers serendipitously wielding baseball bats.

Long on inventiveness but short on substance.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-98454-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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