There’s not a lot of art here, but there’s plenty of heart and intelligence.

BORN ON THE BAYOU

A MEMOIR

A memoir of life in the “lowest part of Louisiana…arguably the wettest, wildest, and freest part of the country.”

Lourd, now an investment banker in Los Angeles, grew up in a place so remote that even his Cajun neighbors called it “the country,” a bit of raised land in the middle of the world’s largest freshwater swamp, pieces of which had been sold over the years to pay off gambling debts. The author’s father, muscle car at the ready and beer can in hand, had a few such debts himself. “Dad was a betting man, like his father before him,” Lourd writes, and a born salesman who understood that the key to being successful is to roll with the punches when rejection arrives, as it always does. The author writes with affection and sympathy for his father, his mother, and the ways of the South, from pulling on a cold beer with professional wrestling blaring in the background to tearing down a dirt road in a “1972 purple-and-black Dodge Super Bee Charger.” Yet, if all men seek to understand their fathers, all boys have to break away from them at some point or another. Lourd’s break had the usual fraught qualities, with a few twists of fate along with a few bittersweet words of wisdom along the way. The author, suffice it to say, survived his sentimental education, and some of his notes are solid. He writes affectingly of boys looking for guidance to men who were lost, weren’t sure of the way, or “instinctively held to the truth that trudging through the fertile, teeming marsh of life was path enough.” However, some of the book seems like a cross between Dr. Phil and The Dukes of Hazzard as filtered through a country song (“Dad was drunk and I watched him sway”).

There’s not a lot of art here, but there’s plenty of heart and intelligence.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7385-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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