Despite an abundance of eye-glazing minutiae, a revealing epistolary portrait emerges of life on the battlefield and at home.

HELICOPTER LOVE MAIL (FROM VIETNAM TO MIAMI)

PART 1

A couple separated by war vents fears, frustrations and intense longing in this sometimes banal, sometimes passionate correspondence.

Bill Clark, then a captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces, went off to Vietnam in 1970, leaving his four months-pregnant wife, Donna, behind in Florida. His letters home from his posting as an adviser to a South Vietnamese battalion are full of homesickness, sweltering discomfort and endless boredom punctuated by moments of trauma. (“Oh, well, at least it killed some time,” he remarks after American planes mistakenly bomb his unit.) Donna usually replies with meandering details of her daily life—“I stayed home and washed and set my hair, then went to Burdine’s with Mom to buy Debbie and Steve their birthday gifts and got them another bath towel set apiece!” —but reveals her own keen anxieties over Bill’s safety and her worsening finances as her allotment checks from his Army pay go undelivered. (Their frantic, confused messages about money—necessarily conveyed via erratic, weeks-delayed postal deliveries—make for an inarguable case for the benefits of instant email and satellite communication.) The tension that separation imposes on the newlyweds runs through their exchanges: Bill chides Donna for staying out until four in the morning and mentions a comrade who is divorcing an untrustworthy wife; Donna pointedly passes along warnings about venereal disease among Vietnamese prostitutes. Although the letters focus on personal life, Vietnam-era social turmoil—drug use in the military, race riots, reports of hippies stoning President Nixon—seeps in around the edges. The selection could have profited from editing and, for this chapter that covers the first five months of Bill’s tour, the excision of less urgent missives (“Well, Honey, another dull day”). Still the Clarks’ personalities, typical of the continuing concerns faced by military families, come through vividly. The couple’s strong love and commitment are expressed in lavish pet names (“Dear Dunky Doo-Doo”), in Donna’s frank declarations of desire and in Bill’s constant romantic protestations: “This letter is to inform you that your husband is very much in love with you.”

Despite an abundance of eye-glazing minutiae, a revealing epistolary portrait emerges of life on the battlefield and at home.

Pub Date: April 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468020885

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more