An unconventional narrative that focuses on sharp, piercing moments.

MY AVANT-GARDE EDUCATION

A MEMOIR

PEN/Hemingway Award winner Cooper (The Bill from My Father: A Memoir, 2006, etc.) returns with a memoir/essay collection (some previously published) that chronicles his early interest in pop art and charts where that interest has taken him.

It began in the author’s junior high school library (in the early 1960s) when a Life magazine piece about pop art caught his fancy. He tore it out, and his adult life began. Cooper tells us how he pursued this growing obsession in local bookstores, watched a TV art teacher (Jon Gnagy) and eventually realized that art “didn’t have to be somber and lofty; it could be as laughable and blunt as a pratfall.” The author’s interests—and his creations—puzzled his parents, but he persisted. At about the same time, Cooper was also realizing he was homosexual, an orientation he had to conceal fiercely during his youth. He dated women, but he yearned for men. He shares memories of his parents, of his school days (experiencing a gym teacher who paddled, learning about the JFK assassination from that same teacher), his search for technique, and his years as a student at CalArts, which opened its doors just at the time he was ready to walk through them. Cooper writes fondly of some instructors at the school, and he notes how he began to realize that he had talents for writing, as well. An art teacher told him, “[s]ounds like you’re ready to write.” And so he did: He spent some years as an art critic and a few as a writing instructor. Cooper also deals with crises in his life, including the death of his mother and the grim arrival of AIDS in his world. His account of the suffering of his partner is one of the most wrenching sections, and he concludes with a brief passage about his chronic insomnia. Throughout, his sentences elicit laughs, gasps and tears.

An unconventional narrative that focuses on sharp, piercing moments.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0393240719

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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