Wilson is more insightful about Plath’s personality than her writings, but this warts-and-all portrait has much valuable new...

MAD GIRL'S LOVE SONG

SYLVIA PLATH AND LIFE BEFORE TED

Sylvia Plath’s (1932–1963) relationship with Ted Hughes “has taken on the resonance of a modern myth,” writes biographer/journalist Wilson (Shadow of the Titanic, 2012, etc.), who argues that excessive focus on it “obscures many aspects of [her] life and work.”

The poems written before Ariel, Plath’s posthumous masterpiece, have been marginalized; the many other men she was involved with, some quite seriously, have hardly been mentioned, let alone interviewed, and the same holds true for her intense female friendships. Wilson fills in these gaps and retells the more familiar stories of Plath’s fraught relationship with her mother and her dead father, her college years at Smith, a summer guest editorship at Mademoiselle and her 1953 suicide attempt, the subject of The Bell Jar. Comments from friends caricatured in its pages suggest that Plath could be vindictive as well as almost pathologically competitive and seething with rage; Wilson depicts a ferociously driven young woman with a highly unstable sense of self that merited the clinical diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Plath despised the sexual double standard and feared marriage and motherhood as threats to her writing career, yet she desperately needed to be approved as a conventionally good girl; the extraordinary praise and prizes she accrued from an early age were never enough. By the time she met Hughes in 1956, it’s likely that the self-destructive pattern of her life was already set. Wilson ends his book there, with a brief afterword stating the facts of Plath’s suicide. He doesn’t seem to empathize with his troubled, complicated subject, but neither does he try to tidy up her contradictions under a neat label, be it feminist rebel or coldhearted bitch.

Wilson is more insightful about Plath’s personality than her writings, but this warts-and-all portrait has much valuable new material about her early years.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1031-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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