An occasionally problematic but mostly sage memoir from an elegant writer.

THE HUE AND CRY AT OUR HOUSE

A YEAR REMEMBERED

Taylor (Proust: The Search, 2015, etc.) leans on gay and Jewish perspectives to craft a memoir of 1963-1964, with the touchstones of his youth still resonating today.

The author, who teaches at Columbia University and the New School's Graduate School, may be revered for his work, but this slender volume is somewhat less than the sum of its parts. “Trusting to what comes handiest,” there is lovely, atmospheric writing and a deft interplay of his former and current selves. Taylor is erudite, often eloquent, and eminently quotable, though occasionally he exudes a whiff of the effete. Random recollections defy immediate connection, and though the author usually gets around to tying the thread, we are sometimes left wondering what the point may have been. He reveals a cozy childhood and valiant parents, wherein no familial scourge—alcoholism, madness, discord, abuse—found a purchase. Nor was money an issue for this largely secular Jewish family of Texas, not after his father made a killing in the market. Perhaps to a fault, Taylor celebrates the past. His mantra: memory clarifies while nostalgia obscures. But are not they forged of similar materials, and is memory not just as prone to gloss? It seems that what has departed from his life feels more substantial to him than what remains, that he is more active in memory than in life, and that he prefers the “sunlit, lavishly hospitable past” to a present that seems insubstantial. His successful life in letters and in academe would seem to belie this self-consciously literary wish to inhabit the past. In certain areas, the author is off the mark, not least in his too-narrow definition of what constituted “the Sixties” and in a cynical dismissal of “privileged” Vietnam War protestors.

An occasionally problematic but mostly sage memoir from an elegant writer.

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-313164-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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