An authentic, if overpadded, document of the Vietnam era.

Helicopter Love Mail (From Vietnam to Miami) Part 2

The menace of the Viet Cong pales beside the tantrums of a fussy newborn in these tense, ardent letters between a soldier and his put-upon wife.

This second volume of the Clarks’ letters, covering Bill’s tour as a U.S. Army Special Forces captain in Vietnam from March to September 1971, begins with the birth of their son, Billy, an event that rocks Donna like the Tet Offensive. With Donna torn between a mother’s love and the squalling, pooping, grabbing, hair-pulling reality of a difficult baby, her conflicted letters express adoration and resentment in the same breath—“Billy’s screaming up a storm, he’s so cute.” She develops a severe case of postpartum depression that leads to a near breakdown: “I feel like just getting away and never returning,” she confesses and adds, “I’m not kidding about the fact that I could almost kill myself.” Meanwhile, Bill is as supportive of Donna’s violent mood swings as he can be from almost 10,000 miles away; he even volunteers to have a vasectomy to appease her dread of further pregnancies. There’s both prickliness and ardent passion in the Clarks’ correspondence; along with Donna’s anxiety about her figure, her threats to give away Bill’s incontinent dog and their mutual suspicions of infidelity, there are countless gushing protestations of love—“Honey, I want you so bad I want to hold you, squeeze your breasts and thighs into my body, and cry”—and yearning countdowns to their reunion. In between the moments of crisis, tension and romantic effusion are long stretches of banality. Donna’s everyday routine—“Then Mom, Billy and I went to Burdine’s and I bought a mattress pad”—fills letter after letter. Bill mentions occasional decapitations and mass casualties in passing, but the sheer ennui of base life—“I wish I had something to write about, but I just don’t”—predominates in his missives. Moon shots and the counterculture—“Talk about gross….the guys’ hairdos are unreal”—go on in the background, but the Clarks stay raptly absorbed in the minutiae of personal life. The collection could have benefitted from a stern editor, but it does vividly convey the small dramas of a typical military family.

An authentic, if overpadded, document of the Vietnam era.

Pub Date: April 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468021370

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

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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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