In a memoir on an uncharacteristically somber subject, Trillin (American Stories, 1991, etc.) traces the life of his college friend Roger ``Denny'' Hansen: Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes Scholar, possessor of charm and good looks to spare—and, at age 55, a suicide victim. Denny had seemed such a golden boy that he was photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt for a Life feature on his 1957 graduation from Yale, and his classmates joked about serving in his cabinet when he became President. But life didn't work out that way. Drained of his confidence at Oxford, unable to enter the Foreign Service as he had desired, Denny (now known as ``Roger'' to new acquaintances) fell into a succession of jobs as an itinerant foreign-policy specialist before becoming a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins's School of Advanced International Studies. In his last years, old friends were puzzled by his broken dinner engagements and unreturned phone calls; new associates found him an unsmiling, moralistic nag who never quite fit in. Why did Denny finally kill himself? Because of unbearable back pain (as implied by a suicide note), a dead-end academic specialty, lack of family or loved ones, long-repressed homosexuality—or, as one friend noted, simply because he was ``depressed all of his life''? After searching for the point of no return in his old friend's life, Trillin wisely settles for no easy conclusions (``Roger would have said that you didn't know him at all,'' one lover of Denny's remarks—with which Trillin ruefully agrees). What makes this gloomy post-mortem bearable and even fascinating is a smattering of Trillin's one- liners, as well as shrewd observations on sexual orientation, changes in universities' demographics, and American attitudes toward success. Perhaps more appropriate as one of Trillin's shorter New Yorker pieces—but, still, a fine meditation on one life's aborted promise, the crippling burden of anticipated success, and the mysteries of the human heart.

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-374-22607-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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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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