Deep truths underlie this fragmented, compelling narrative, which leaves readers wishing only the best for its harrowed...

I'M TELLING THE TRUTH, BUT I'M LYING

ESSAYS

“Imagine you don’t fit anywhere, not even in your own head”: A Nigerian immigrant and debut author writes of mental illness and its staggering challenges.

Catapult contributing editor Ikpi opens with the suggestion that the fractured memories to follow in her memoir may or may not be true. “The trick to lying,” she writes, “is to tell people that you’re a bad liar because then they’ll believe what you say.” What she has to say is sometimes heartbreaking, as she recounts a search for reliable memories when she has so few of them. “I need to prove to you that I didn’t enter the world broken,” she writes before admitting the paucity of fact in a whirl of impressions and sensations. What she does know is that she doesn’t know. Things were kept from her, familial facts were forgotten, genealogies erased, and unpleasant truths swept aside. Little things proved overwhelming: the discovery, for instance, that “the twins from my favorite movie, The Parent Trap, were actually one person.” If the distance from Nigeria to Oklahoma was great, the leap to adulthood in New York was greater. Depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety proved to be formidable opponents, isolation a constant even surrounded by millions of people. One of the most affecting parts of the book is a simple diarylike reconstruction of a long day that began and ended with an airplane flight, a day of sleeplessness, hunger, and worry (“this doesn’t happen to normal people”). Other strong moments in this relentlessly honest narrative recount failed love (“he was the only one I regret being too broken for”), the shame of not being the immigrant success her parents had hoped for, and the quest for wholeness amid a cornucopia of medications targeting a long list of troubles that she expresses simply: “I don’t feel good."

Deep truths underlie this fragmented, compelling narrative, which leaves readers wishing only the best for its harrowed author.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269834-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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