Spry yet serious.




A self-help book directing readers to think positively and constructively.

Your thoughts are powerful, creative engines, according to the author: “Things that are happening to you do not happen by mere chance or accident. You cause them to happen.” Most of the time, our thoughts are dictated by what is happening in the external world we inhabit. Rather than reactive, the author would like people to be creative. Through a series of linked points, she takes readers through awareness to self-observation where you witness consciousness in action from a third-person perspective, to self-concentration where you focus on a single point without the constant clutter accrued by simple consciousness. This focus allows you to “create your reality,” through inner detachment from the veneer of life. Sow your mind with the seeds of your desires and needs; set and pursue that target. Keep your mental attitude in check, which in turn steadies your response to the external world. Uproot negative thoughts and plant positive ones. Repeat after Toumazou: “I have the ability to think whatever thoughts I desire,” thus fashioning your relationship to the world. This may sound delusional to some, though from a slightly different perspective it could, for example, be seen as the awareness to avoid victimization. Be decisive, own the right of expectation, act accordingly and practice persistence (yes, there will be difficulties and obstacles to attaining aspirations). Toumazou is in the business of creating good habits, though occasionally she drifts. The world isn’t so mechanistic as she suggests with: “we can create our external reality,” nor is it as immaterial as it seems in her giddy statement: “you are a holograph connected to the universe.” She is ultimately a proponent of positive awareness. (The influence of Charles Haanel’s The Master Key System is made clear from the epigrammatic references appended to nearly each of Toumazou’s 50 steps.) If the book’s message feels relentless, that’s because it is. Thinking positively—thinking constructively—isn’t a cakewalk, but it sure beats glum defeatism.

Spry yet serious.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-9963-9630-3-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2010

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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