Literary biography of Mailer by the well-received author of Nothing Ever Happens to the Brave: The Story of Martha Gellhorn (1990) and Lillian Hellman (1988). Rollyson (Art History and Literature/Baruch) firmly engages the reader in a swift life of Mailer as if from 30 years hence rather than in the ``now'' vein of earlier biographies by Hilary Mills and Peter Manso. A touchstone event in Mailer's life took place in 1954 when Mailer's friend, editor John Maloney, stabbed his mistress in Greenwich Village, leaving Mailer aswim in Dostoevskian thought and envying Maloney: ``God, I wish I had the courage to stab a woman like that. That was a really gutsy act.'' What he envied, according to Rollyson, was the rebel act against received morality in which ``the shits are killing us''; when he later did stab his wife Adele, he found it morally indefensible. An oddly charming Brooklyn prodigy, Mailer went through childhood and early youth in a terribly professional way (building elaborate model planes), entered Harvard as a skinny little runt of 16, took up engineering, then was bitten by the James T. Farrell bug and began methodically engineering the short story and novel. In the army, he baldly interviewed troops for his future great war novel and, as at Harvard, tried to define himself against a larger entity—as he did in Ancient Evenings and is still doing in his current novel, Harlot's Ghost (see above). Mailer's life is all highlights, some of them abysmal, as with his abortive run for mayor of New York and later the Jack Abbott fiasco. On a literary level, Rollyson's best pages tie Mailer privately into the themes of Ancient Evenings, though his remark that Mailer hasn't had a major success since The Executioner's Song and at this late date may be past producing another triumph is unjust regarding both Ancient Evenings and Harlot's Ghost, which some already see as the high-water marks of Mailer's career. Mailer bounding larger than life—though the last word will be his in his long-promised autobiography, when and if.... (Eight pages of photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 1-55778-193-1

Page Count: 358

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?