A quest for authenticity and self-acceptance, marred by occasional sentimentality and banality, but ultimately redeemed by a...

TURN LEFT AT THE TROJAN HORSE

A WOULD-BE HERO’S AMERICAN ODYSSEY

Herzog’s third travel memoir (Small World: A Microcosmic Journey, 2004, etc.) follows the highways cross-country to his college reunion at Cornell University, examining the idea of the hero along the way.

The author begins close to Mt. Olympus, Wash.; like his role model, Odysseus, he headed for Ithaca (New York in this case). Herzog took off in a mammoth Winnebago, visiting hamlets called Troy, Calypso, Siren and Plato, as well as some places he once called home. Camping in RV parks and Wal-Mart parking lots and eating in homegrown cafés, the author talked with a wide variety of people, including farmers, cops, small-town politicians and more. There is “Hobo Dan,” who supports his lifestyle by making earrings out of gopher paws; Bud, a sassy 95-year-old who brags that his driver’s license is valid until he’s 102; and Ray, a volunteer cosmologist who has recorded the weather in Pandora, Ohio, every night since 1949. Herzog is at his best when he allows these amusing, winsome folks to tell their stories in their own voices. He also captures stunning details of the American landscape—black Angus cattle grazing peacefully on a pale green mountainside; a Yield sign riddled with bullet holes presiding over a crossroads in the middle of nowhere; steam rising from the ground in a former coal-mining town in Pennsylvania; a monument honoring a faithful dog named Shep. The exhaustive self-analysis, on the other hand, becomes tiresome, though there are flashes of excellent self-awareness, like Herzog’s characterization of himself as “sushi-eating, Gap-wearing, left-leaning interloper” at a tractor-pull competition. Attempts to draw parallels between his experiences and classical mythology result in some jarring transitions and tedious digressions, but the denouement, the hero’s return, is irresistible.

A quest for authenticity and self-acceptance, marred by occasional sentimentality and banality, but ultimately redeemed by a near-perfect ending.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8065-3202-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Citadel/Kensington

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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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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