Blurring the line between biography and memoir, these essays consider the power of public personalities to illuminate one’s...

ICON

Eight writers reflect on women who fascinate them.

“Who do you think about (maybe a little too often), who challenges, inspires, or outrages you? Who are you obsessed with?” These questions inform this collection of essays, edited by Feminist editorial director Scholder (editor: Dr. Rice in the House, 2007, etc.), about famous women whom the writers see as personal icons. As they investigate the women’s lives, the essayists reflect on their own identities and what motivates their attractions. Novelist Mary Gaitskill writes about porn artist Linda Lovelace, whose public persona, Gaitskill believes, has been bowdlerized. Herself a victim of a violent rape, Gaitskill feels a visceral understanding of the “hellish combination” of anger and fear that Lovelace is likely to have experienced. “As much as anything,” she writes, “her story is about enormous loneliness and the struggle to survive, a condition so much bigger than how she was seen.” Writer and gardener Jill Nelson is incredulous that young women today have no idea who Aretha Franklin was—a woman who, for Nelson, embodied “liberated empowerment or broke down heartache, with a sultry dose of lust thrown in.” Historian, classical singer and restaurateur Hanne Blank is fascinated by food writer M.F.K. Fisher, who represented “style and self-assurance” and “sensual, unpretentious worldliness.” Blank continues: “Calm assertion is nine tenths of authority. Emotion is more potent without melodrama, or even exclamation points.” Justin Vivian Bond focuses on supermodel Karen Graham, the advertising face of Estée Lauder, to explore her own identity as “a small-town transperson…sure that what I wanted was to escape into a world of glamour and elegance, taste and refinement.” Other contributions include Rick Moody on singer Karen Dalton, musician Johanna Fateman on Andrea Dworkin, and novelist Kate Zambreno on Kathy Acker.

Blurring the line between biography and memoir, these essays consider the power of public personalities to illuminate one’s deepest sense of self.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55861-866-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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