THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE

OR, MY LIFE AS AN ENGLISHMAN

A richly rendered memoir by one of England’s finest writers. For more than 40 years, Aldiss has created first-rate work in fields ranging from science fiction (Greybeard, 1964; The Helliconia Trilogy, 1982—85), to experimental fiction (Barefoot in the Head, not reviewed) to mainstream work (The Horatio Stubbs Saga, not reviewed). Now Aldiss turns to autobiography, with equally impressive results. This account is divided into three sections. Part One, “Necessitations,” is perhaps the finest. Here, Aldiss describes his childhood living over his family’s drapery shop, growing up with his often difficult family, and his WWII stint as a soldier in Burma, in vivid novelistic detail. Part Two, “Permissibles,” detailing his adult life as a successful novelist, is, perhaps inevitably, the most scattershot. Still, Aldiss provides lively anecdotes, excellent insights into his writing, and extensive reportage on the many world travels that have formed the underpinnings of such recent fiction as Remembrance Day (1993) and Somewhere East of Life (1994). In addition, he frequently steps back to discuss science fiction as an art form, and the pluses and minuses of working in what is still often thought of as a lesser genre (principally by those who have read little or no quality science fiction). In the book’s conclusion, “Ascent,” Aldiss turns inward as he describes a period of depression leading to analysis and bringing his story full circle back to his childhood, this time with a deeper understanding of how the damaged child became an adult who felt unworthy of love. In the candid, moving final chapters, Aldiss works toward becoming the man we finally see: an artist happy with his life, his work, and himself. Although a writer’s autobiography is perhaps most likely to appeal to that writer’s previous fans, anyone encountering Aldiss for the first time in this excellent book will almost certainly turn back happily to his extensive and varied catalog of work.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19346-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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