Charmingly written, but readers interested in the nature of the work that won him his accolades will have to look elsewhere.

THE FRACTALIST

MEMOIR OF A SCIENTIFIC MAVERICK

Memoir of a brilliant mathematician who never thought of himself as a mathematician.

Part of the reason is that Mandelbrot’s work had wide-ranging impact; as his best-known book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1982) illustrates, his insights apply across many disciplines. That breadth of interest originated in Mandelbrot’s early years, growing up in a Jewish family that managed to dodge the currents of anti-Semitism, moving from Lithuania to Poland to France, where the author spent the World War II years in a provincial town, away from the attention of the occupiers. Early in life, he learned about Johannes Kepler, whose geometric insights changed the nature of astronomy, and Mandelbrot made it one of his goals to achieve a similar breakthrough. After the war, his academic skills got him into the École Polytechnique, an elite training school for military engineers. Then he bounced around from Caltech to the French air force to the University of Paris to the Institute for Advanced Studies. Along the way, he made the acquaintance of an impressive number of scientific giants, acquired a doctorate and a love of music and married Aliette Kagan, with whom he would spend the rest of his life. To this point, his career showed more promise than achievement. Taking a job with IBM, which encouraged basic research with no obvious application to its products, turned out to be his best move. There, he found his interest in “roughness” led to geometric insights that opened doors in a number of fields. The final pages are a summary of accomplishments, publications and recognitions. Interestingly, the narrative deliberately avoids mathematics and therefore gives only the vaguest suggestion of his actual work. That decision undoubtedly makes the book more accessible to general readers, but it also throws the emphasis on the more superficial aspects of his career. Nonetheless, the portraits of his contemporaries and their milieu are worth the read.

Charmingly written, but readers interested in the nature of the work that won him his accolades will have to look elsewhere.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-37735-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more