A beguiling journey of self-discovery.

DIRT WORK

AN EDUCATION IN THE WOODS

A young woman’s account of life on trail crews in two national parks.

In her debut, Byl, who now operates an Alaska trail-design business with her husband, celebrates the satisfying rituals of work in the wild. Right out of college, she spent 15 years clearing downfall, building bridges, sinking signposts and otherwise maintaining trails in Montana’s Glacier National Park and Alaska’s Denali National Park. Initially the skinniest and least-muscled of her cohorts, she was soon able to swing an axe and run a chain saw. She imitated the veteran workers, especially the women: “I studied them, envied their tight-veined hands, tanned wrinkles shooting from their eyes, their easy cussing and the way they strode in their logging boots.” During long workdays that included up to 20 miles of hiking, Byl learned how to work with men, how to fell a tree and how to speak the language of mules. While friends and family wondered when she was going to get a real job, the author was lured ever deeper into the woods by the wild’s siren of impermanence. Much of her evocative book recalls pranks, projects and camaraderie; the tools essential to outdoor labor; and trailside moments, from singing the “Montana Cowgirl’s Mating Song” (“Get it up, get it in, get it out, don’t muss my hair-doooooo!”) to eating her favorite outdoor sandwich (ham, cheddar cheese, heavy on the mayo). Along the way, she found her “inner dirtball,” married her boyfriend and made a home in Healy, Alaska, north of Denali, where she and her husband live in a yurt with two sled dogs, an outhouse and WiFi and often go dip-netting for red salmon on the Copper River.

A beguiling journey of self-discovery.

Pub Date: April 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0807001004

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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