A promising first book.

A debut collection of interrelated essays finds a young writer trying to navigate his way through identity and challenges of race, privilege, sexuality, and culture.

Reflective and creative, Perry has been on a pilgrimage of self-discovery that has led him from prep school and Princeton out East to the freer-spirited bohemia of San Francisco, describing himself in 2003 as “25, black, and frequently straight.” As the collection nears its end, he is “31, almost 32, and my future seemed empty.” After moving to Iowa City for a graduate program in writing, he struggled with his identity and what he wanted amid “the engulfing whiteness of Iowa, a shroud that would surely overwhelm me.” His educational pedigree conferred on him a sense of privilege, of “passage to live among various stratifications of the white world,” which seemed to some to render his racial authenticity suspect. “You’re not a real nigger,” insisted one of his white classmates, though Perry recognizes that race is the categorical qualifier through which others perceive him and through which he perceives himself. He also recognizes that words can hurt and that he has used them to hurt. Chronologically arranged to mark the author’s geographical, psychological, and cultural progression, the essays show that he writes engagingly, feels strongly, thinks obsessively about who he is and what he wants, and doesn’t accomplish anything of lasting significance. He writes about a lot that goes nowhere: sex, relationships, bands, writing, and his graduate degree. Yet throughout his journey of self-discovery, he has been gathering material, experiences that he can mine in writing. The final section features three brief letters addressed to “Emma,” a woman not previously mentioned in the collection. The first suggests that she “might be some sort of light I could follow on my way out of the cave.” At this point, it seems Perry has begun to find his way.

A promising first book.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-937512-83-5

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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

Close Quickview