A pleasing gathering of distinct personalities and unique stories from the ape house.

VOICES FROM THE APE HOUSE

A gorilla keeper’s memoir about her years (1982-1996) at the Columbus Zoo.

Armstrong began her career when zoos were on the cusp of rethinking their mission and their responsibilities regarding the animals in their care. It was a roiling time in the zoo community, with new ideas challenging traditional practices. Early on, the author found her niche in the zoo’s ape house, where even the simple chores gave her pleasure as they brought her close to the gorillas. In a comfortable, conversational writing style, she composes short, crisp stories about her encounters with the great apes. She eschews the chart, table, and figure approach of behavioral research, instead relying on a purely anecdotal telling of her real-life experiences with the gorillas. One of her first lessons was that keepers serve as the first advocates for the gorillas in captivity. Armstrong chronicles the processes of introducing hay for nesting and providing playthings for entertainment and structures to climb on and swing from. Today, when many zoos have created entire habitats for their apes, these elemental changes may seem negligible, but they were the first steps in fashioning suitable environments in which the apes could thrive rather than just survive. Armstrong was in the forefront of exchanging experiences with other zoos around the world, developing a network of relationships that spread advances made in gorilla husbandry and zoo management. The zoo’s philosophy became “Do the right thing for the right reasons,” guided by insights from the ape house: “Never ever presume anything; the gorillas will tell you through obvious and not so obvious ways what they want, what they need. Never bring your presumption to the fore as that will predictably get someone hurt, either a gorilla or a keeper.” Though the author’s discussions of zoo management are mostly engaging, the most heart-touching material is found in the profiles of the gorillas.

A pleasing gathering of distinct personalities and unique stories from the ape house.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8142-5571-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Trillium/Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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