Accounts of genuine spiritual anguish and unspeakable loss commingled with humid, Harlequinesque passages.

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THE SCENT OF GOD

A MEMOIR

A former cloistered nun tells in sometimes treacly prose how she chose God over the world, then fell in love with a priest, left the monastery, eventually married the (now ex-) priest, had children, suffered grievous losses.

In her debut work, Bissell, now a journalist in Minnesota (Cook County News Herald), employs a dawn-to-dusk framework, including sub-sections devoted to the daily monastic rituals, beginning with matins, ending with compline. The author experienced some unpleasantness in childhood—an alcoholic father, teen troubles with weight (her mother called her a “fat pig”) and with unkind coevals (she was mocked at her prom). Later, she lost weight, found a boyfriend but decided to become a Poor Clare when she realized that with God she would find a love beyond what any man could offer. Bissell’s most engaging segments concern her cloistered life as she learned to adapt to demanding routines of self-denial. She became anorexic, developed a quiet crush on the novice mistress but eventually found peace in bread-making. She also remembered a bad man who’d flashed his erection when she’d been a little girl—and a physician, examining her naked adult body, who had some stiffness issues of his own that he wanted her to resolve (she declined). When her father became ill in Puerto Rico, she received permission to stay with him. There, she met a hot Italian priest and developed a protracted “relationship” with him. Employing some moral relativism, she slept with the priest many times (but not in that way—really). Eventually, though, nature took its course, and the two, who’d once taken solemn vows of chastity, went at it in “a wild almost crazed consuming of one another.”

Accounts of genuine spiritual anguish and unspeakable loss commingled with humid, Harlequinesque passages.

Pub Date: April 30, 2006

ISBN: 1-58243-348-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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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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