AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD

Dillard's headlong immersion into the mysteries of the natural world—from bedrocks to the heavens, and flora and fauna (from amoebas to us)—places this childhood memoir of life with a companionable family in Pittsburgh's elite enclave in the 50's and 60's. There is less tugging at the rare insight, the wild surmise, as in, say, Dillard's Teaching the Stone to Talk (1982), and this bright, imaginative whack through the "overgrown path" back to the past is more accessible to the general reader. Awareness is all to Dillard. To the tot, "mindless and eternal," playing on the kitchen floor, will come, in the roaring flood of time, "the breakthrough shift between seeing, and knowing you see." Aware as the dickens, Dillard found that everything in the world is "an outcrop of some vast vein of knowledge." The child Dillard will read books "to delirium," investigate rocks and insects, "pry open a landscape" with a microscope, draw faces, and just because it felt marvelous, pretend to fly, arms flapping, clown a Pittsburgh main street. In between accounts of such fabulous flights and efforts of concentration which "draw you down so very deep," there are delightful portraits of a set of attractive parents (shameless connoisseurs of jokes, both ancient and practical) and not unaffectionate views of Pittsburgh's Old Guard, at Country Club play to actually praying (to teen-ager Dillard's angry astonishment) in sables and tailcoats, in their gold-plated church). There are tales of mischief-making, dances and boys, school and the fine and splendid rages of adolescence ("I was a dog barking between my own ears"). Throughout, Dillard rumples up the placid life. An overview of one particular childhood told with shiver and bounce, and another Dillard voyage of discovery as she continues to "break up through the skin of awareness . . .as dolphins burst through the seas. . ."

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1987

ISBN: 0060915188

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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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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