Don’t leave for Rome without it.

FOUR SEASONS IN ROME

ON TWINS, INSOMNIA, AND THE BIGGEST FUNERAL IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD

A young novelist observes the Eternal City with a fresh eye.

Doerr (About Grace, 2004, etc.) left Boise, Idaho, in November 2004, with his wife and six-month-old twin sons, to become a fellow at the American Academy. He is given a stipend, an apartment and a studio, where he can pursue whatever writing project he chooses. His just-begun novel remains untouched, however, as he finds himself coping with a strange new world. Doerr learns that only when one leaves home “can routine experience—buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello—become new all over again.” He struggles valiantly with daily life in an apartment with no oven and confusing plumbing, streets with alarming traffic and neighborhood stores where he doesn’t know the words for what he wants to buy—tomato sauce comes out as grapefruit sauce. His twins require enormous amounts of time and energy from both parents, and sleep constantly eludes him. He somehow maneuvers a twin stroller on and off buses and through the streets of Rome, exploring plazas, churches, even St. Peter’s Square. The reader shares his panic when his wife falls ill and is hospitalized, and his wonder and joy as the twins begin to walk and talk. Through all the trials of domestic life in a foreign land, Doerr finds time to read Pliny and to record in beautifully crafted prose his impressions of the Pantheon, Pope John Paul’s funeral, panhandlers, paintings, pollution, graffiti, piazzas, fountains, pine trees and starlings. Rome is, he writes, “a puzzle of astonishing complexity. It is an iceberg floating beneath our terrace, all its ballast hidden beneath the surface.” At times, a babysitter frees the Doerrs to explore Rome (and later Umbria) on their own, and Doerr finds himself once again writing fiction. To call this a travel book is to sell it short; it is delightful, funny and full of memorable scenes.

Don’t leave for Rome without it.

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4001-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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