A powerful compilation of poems on the continuing costs of a 50-year-old conflict.

FRAGMENTS

THE LONG COMING HOME FROM VIETNAM

A Vietnam veteran’s poetic reflections on the war.

Berger, a professor emeritus at the University of Alabama, has written multiple books on public relations and leadership. In this volume, he provides readers with 34 original poems based on his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Decades after the conflict ended, he notes, many vets remain psychologically “trapped.” Berger’s own “living fragments” of memory continue to haunt him a half century later, he says, “each a small piece of an unfinished mosaic in a gallery in my mind.” Writing poetry helped him stitch together these fragments, and ultimately helped him to “come home” mentally, long after he’d returned physically. The collection opens with a poem detailing Berger’s work as a “Next-of-Kin” editor in the Army, where he wrote hundreds of letters informing families of their loved ones’ deaths. Here, in his characteristically unfiltered style, Berger describes his own inadequacies writing “golden glorifications” of the sacrifices made by lost soldiers, whose families he knows will soon be trapped in “the straitjacket of emotional grief.” Overall, the works here are raw and often poignant. Although many poems reflect the author’s own psychological state (such as “Five Seasons for Soldiers,” in which memories of the war “loop endlessly” and “time runs forward, back”), others evoke other perspectives. “Orange Rain,” for instance, tells the story of the American and Vietnamese lives destroyed by Agent Orange, whose toxicity was “a shared secret” between the military and the corporate “chemical boys,” while another disturbing poem, “Girl Selling Her Fruit,” tells of a pubescent Vietnamese girl selling fruit, and sex, to American soldiers, suggesting that her “performance today…ensures a tomorrow.” The verses are accompanied by 24 pieces of original art submitted by members of the Providence Art Club in Rhode Island; they range from oil paintings to collages to digital illustrations. With varying degrees of effectiveness, and despite a few amateurish misses, the art effectively reflects the main themes of Berger’s poetry: the brutality of war and its psychological tolls, as well as the fragility of human life.

A powerful compilation of poems on the continuing costs of a 50-year-old conflict.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9855048-1-6

Page Count: 92

Publisher: WordWorthyPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

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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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