A YEAR IN THE MAINE WOODS

Heinrich's tedious personal account of 12 long months holed up in the wilderness of western Maine is so didactic and self-involved that it makes the reader want to hightail it to the nearest strip mall, where people are at least what they seem. Heinrich (Ravens in Winter, 1989, etc.), a zoologist tired of paper pushing at the University of Vermont, retreats to the New England woods to see the world up close. He chops down trees, assembles a log cabin, digs a latrine, and plants vegetables. But for all his posturing, this hideaway for do-it-yourselfers is not so solitary or so rustic. A newspaper arrives at his mailbox daily (he claims it's necessary so that he can start his morning fire); and he installs a telephone and answering machine in his neighbors' outhouse. Most of Heinrich's days are spent watching his pet raven, Jack, eat the roadkill he has lovingly collected for the bird while fondly recalling meals of run-over muskrat and raccoon he himself consumed in college; calculating the number of seeds a young birch has to shed (2,415,000); creating endless lists of the colors of fall leaves (``light lemon yellow,'' ``yellow with dot-sized red speckles,'' etc.); counting and counting the black cluster flies that invade his cabin (12,800, or ``nine and a half cups full, level''); explaining how to prepare braised mice (``pull the skins off and the guts out'' and throw them in a little olive oil); and making flatulent observations like ``Life is not a spectator sport.'' Heinrich should have learned a lesson from the mountain men he calls his heroes: ``tough men, who did not write books about their exploits, or even talk of them.'' Banality posing as self-knowledge. More boring than Walden.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-62252-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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