A wonderfully written and inspiring exploration of a beautiful friendship.

THE CRAZY WISDOM

MEMOIR OF A FRIENDSHIP

A memoir celebrates a difficult but deep friendship in the Adirondacks.

Not long after settling into a corner of the Adirondacks, that huge wilderness area in upstate New York (Shaw was born and raised in Schenectady, just south of there), the author met Jon Cody. This man would change Shaw’s life in ways both obvious and subtle. Cody was loud, fearless, gregarious, generous—he would literally give you the shirt off his back if you admired it—and always alive with ideas. If anyone was “larger than life,” it was Cody. He was also one-armed, dyslexic, and a prodigious consumer (and dealer) of weed—big blunts all day long—and often other illegal substances. And seldom would he refuse a drink. The dealing supported him, but he was also a very talented and skillful worker in leather. Shaw, meanwhile, was seriously adrift, with vague ideas of becoming a writer. If he just kept imagining himself one (old story, that), someday, he trusted, the Writing Fairy would appear and anoint him as such. Meanwhile, he drifted from job to job (ski lift operator, hunting guide). Cody lived and held court in the Wigwam, a remnant of a building on an abandoned estate, where everyone was welcome: hunters, fishermen, drug enthusiasts, assorted lowlifes, and, of course, the author. Cody died alone there in 2015 after living his life on his own terms, a much-abused cliché but very true in his case. Shaw did what he could to create a proper memorial. The author, by the way, finally did become an accomplished writer and teacher. One imagines dyslexic Cody, whom Shaw used to read to (Jack London was a favorite), being proud, if somewhat bemused.

It’s no surprise that Shaw is a gifted writer—graceful, sensitive, and learned. This being the account of a male friendship, it is important to note that the relationship between the author and Cody was a bromance, not an affair reminiscent of Brokeback Mountain. Shaw is clear on that, but a real love did exist between these two men, and he deftly examines it with regard to Jung and other sources. This memoir is also a vibrant love letter to the Adirondacks, a hinterland of rough weather and encompassing forests and streams that breeds characters to rival (but not match) Cody. This is a book that invites readers to sink into it, to wish they were living in that wild, enticing place; casting a line in those trout streams; or just getting plastered in the bars (so many bars) while singing and dancing exuberantly and having a good friend like Cody—none too sober either. This pal would eventually drag them home or throw a blanket over them on his couch. Finally, the work is a stirring paean to friendship and need. What is this “Crazy Wisdom” the memoir’s title trumpets? readers may ask. Perhaps it refers to Cody’s wisdom of fearlessly owning his life, which gave Shaw the courage to finally take charge of his own destiny. People need heroes to make their ways in this world, even if those heroes are as starkly unlikely as Cody.

A wonderfully written and inspiring exploration of a beautiful friendship.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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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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