Greer’s mellifluous work should introduce her to new readers.


A lyrical, mannered memoir in which the American-British playwright and novelist returns to the South Side of Chicago, where she grew up in the 1950s and ’60s in a poor, segregated neighborhood.

Most of Greer’s work (Langston Hughes: the Value of Contradiction, 2011, etc.) was produced after her move to England in 1986 and thus is not well-known on this side of the Atlantic. In her beautifully wrought yet occasionally meandering narrative, the author taps back into the poor, hardworking spirit of her parents, very much the products of the Great Migration from the South after the turn of the century, and the rampant and stifling discrimination that also prevailed in Chicago as she grew up. She writes poignantly of her factory-worker father, who was raised in Jim Crow Mississippi only to endure the added humiliation of serving in the Army during World War II when German prisoners of war were treated better than black servicemen; and her light-skinned mother, self-described as “a little piece of leather that’s well put together,” who became a housewife and bore seven children—Greer being the eldest. They were working poor, able to attend Catholic school and move to a house of their own on the South Side. Observing her beautiful mother exhausted and restricted to the home gave Greer a good idea of what she did not want to do with her life. She tried studying law and was always writing, but she did not have the confidence to assert herself during the tumultuous period of her university years in Chicago, when Black Power was gathering strength. She had affairs with professors and white men and found a family among a welcoming gay community she calls “the Boys.” She ends with her move to New York City at age 30.

Greer’s mellifluous work should introduce her to new readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1909807624

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dufour

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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 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...


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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