A minor-episode-in-history yarn that gets spun out a couple of dozen pages too long but that has legs all the same.

THE MAN WHO WALKED BACKWARD

AN AMERICAN DREAMER'S SEARCH FOR MEANING IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION

From the strange-but-true annals, a wild ride through the Depression era, one foot at a time.

Plennie Wingo (1895-1993) was an Abilene restaurateur who got on the wrong side of the revenuers by buying and selling bootleg alcohol during Prohibition. He wasn’t alone: By Montgomery’s (Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, 2014) account, half of the court cases in 1928 in Texas had to do with booze. Nor was he alone in seeing his finances crumble to dust in the stock market crash and ensuing yearslong financial downturn. But Wingo was nothing if not entrepreneurial, and he hit on an idea that was both fundraiser and protest—and, writes the author at an appropriately onrushing pace, “when a certain kind of man has a certain kind of idea, one that he considers good, that good idea takes hold of him and it swells behind his eyeballs and expands, balloon-like, so big that it crowds out all the other thoughts and ideas.” That idea was to walk across America, and maybe Europe, too, backward, selling postcards and other mementos of his madcap endeavor to support his family. It worked: Wingo remains in the record books, and he saw history unfold and had wondrous and sometimes fraught experiences (“he had barely made it through the gate of a fortified village at the foot of the ancient Bohemian castle when he noticed that the peasants seemed like they wanted to kill him”). There’s a feel at times that Montgomery is bewitched by the open spaces; his many-paged reverie on the Great Plains and their Indigenous inhabitants (“the Indians submitted and the buffalo rotted and the plains sat empty”) seems as if it really belongs in another book. Still, following Wingo’s travels makes for a pleasing enough read.

A minor-episode-in-history yarn that gets spun out a couple of dozen pages too long but that has legs all the same.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-43806-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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