THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM

A MEMOIR

Gordons memoir fails to convey the passion and excitement of her extraordinary life. As the only daughter of world-famous Russian pianist Leo Sirota, from a young age Gordon was launched on a brilliant cosmopolitan trajectory. Her earliest experiences of Europe's reigning cities and a flashing cultural elite promised the girl a heady future. According to her, however, the most important aspect of Gordon's youth was her extensive expatriate stint in Japan, where her family fled shortly before WW II, alarmed by mounting European anti-Semitism. Although she left for the US during the war, Gordon returned to Japan once WW II had ended, working as a civilian in General MacArthur's Tokyo office and assisting with the writing of the Japanese constitution, which laid the framework for postwar life in that nation. She was mandated to research and draw up the part of the constitution which altered the status of women in a society where, until then, none had ever enjoyed a bona fide legal status. The constitution also ensured education for all people in a country that in some respects remained fundamentally feudal. Gordon ably conveys the historic significance of her undertaking, while giving short shrift to personal insights. Her style hides the writer from us, muffling the excitements of her intercontinental, multi-lingual rovings. The book is also hampered by Gordon's disconcerting decision to tilt forward and backward in time, creating an uncomfortable distance between the then and the now of her story. When she took up residence in New York in 1947, Gordon by no means abandoned her unusual cultural expertise and training. Instead, she assumed a leading role in bringing the arts of Asia to an American audience and traveled, consorting with emperors, gurus, and koto players. Too bad her tale largely fails to take leave of the page. (36 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 4-7700-2145-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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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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