An important reassessment of Irving that restores him to his rightful place as a founder of American literature.

THE ORIGINAL KNICKERBOCKER

THE LIFE OF WASHINGTON IRVING

The first major biography in a half-century of one of America’s first professional writers, from a historian (History/Univ. of Tulsa) who specializes in early America (Jefferson’s Secrets, 2005, etc.).

Burstein’s is a conventional telling of a literary life. He begins with a glance at post-Revolutionary New York, brings his hero onstage, tells his life story, ends with an assessment of his influence. But Irving has long needed such a thorough, sympathetic treatment. Burstein shows the enormous influence of Irving’s family (he was the youngest of 11), illustrates thoughtfully his political life (he met presidents, was friends with Aaron Burr, officially served his government, in the U.S. and abroad), chronicles his relationships with iconic colleagues—Walter Scott, Poe, Godwin, Mary Shelley (who, in widowhood, wished for more than mere friendship with Irving), Dickens, Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper (who barked at and bit his fellow New Yorker). Burstein also does an intelligent job of explicating Irving’s works—and it’s sad to note that he must summarize even “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” neither of which, he says, retains its prominence in the public-school curriculum. Using Irving’s volumes of correspondence and travel journals (with the acknowledged help of the scholarly editions of Irving’s work prepared decades ago by the Univ. of Wisconsin and Twayne Publishers), Burstein is able to explore the origins of Irving’s prose. Irving emerges here as a highly professional, productive and satiric writer who published travel books, sketches, stories, histories, biographies (including his final work, a five-volume life of George Washington, whom he met and for whom he was named). Like other scholars, Burstein is troubled by Irving’s sex life. Did he have one? Was he gay? Or was he a stereotypical asexual bachelor uncle who enjoyed the company of women, especially younger ones? Burstein believes the evidence is insufficient to make a definitive answer.

An important reassessment of Irving that restores him to his rightful place as a founder of American literature.

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-465-00853-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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