A filling, satisfying feast for Faulkner aficionados.

THE LIFE OF WILLIAM FAULKNER

VOLUME 1, THE PAST IS NEVER DEAD, 1897-1934

A deeply detailed account of the 1949 Nobel laureate’s early life and work.

In this first of two projected volumes, Rollyson (Emeritus, Journalism and Creative Writing/Baruch Coll., CUNY; Understanding Susan Sontag, 2016, etc.) returns with a thick volume that accomplishes several objectives. It rehearses the details of Faulkner’s family history in Mississippi; examines many intriguing aspects of his early life (romances, drinking, difficulties making enough money, determination to write, public and private manner, friendships and professional associations); and assesses in great detail the major works he published during this time, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Sanctuary among them. The author also deals frankly with some questions of Faulkner’s character, including his fabrications about his flying experiences (he underwent pilot training for World War I but did not go because the war ended before he could) and his evolving attitudes about race. Near the end of this volume, Rollyson examines Faulkner’s early experiences as a screenwriter in Hollywood, including analyses of the treatments and scripts he worked on—and how these would affect his subsequent fiction. Throughout, the author, an expert biographer, delivers arresting details and telling images from his subject’s life: Faulkner got a D in English at the University of Mississippi; he liked Charlie Chaplin movies and somewhat resembled the cinema star; As I Lay Dying appeared less than a year after he commenced writing it. Faulkner idolized Sherwood Anderson; though they became friends, their friendship eventually fractured. In Hollywood, Faulkner drank with Howard Hawks, and his literary friendships included Lillian Hellman (the subject of a previous Rollyson biography), Dashiell Hammett, and Nathanael West. The author’s underlying research is prodigious, and he does not hesitate to correct earlier biographers. General readers will find some of the book a bit daunting—especially the lengthy exegeses of literary works—but this is a top-notch biography nonetheless.

A filling, satisfying feast for Faulkner aficionados.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8139-4382-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Univ. of Virginia

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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