Constructive and accessible.



Palahniuk (Adjustment Day, 2018, etc.) offers a comradely handbook on writing.

After enduring a travesty of a writing workshop, the author resolved to produce a tough-love manual on fiction writing. Palahniuk’s own work had benefited immeasurably from a different workshop conducted by Tom Spanbauer, whom he credits lavishly. A journalist by training, Palahniuk is known for a minimalist, conversational writing style and transgressive fiction featuring marginalized characters, but the strategies collected here can benefit any student of writing. Ranging from the nuts-and-bolts mechanics to the community of readers, his advice is highly detailed and practical, if occasionally tinged with romantic notions that belie his literary reputation for nihilism. And it's more than merely the tricks of the trade. Not surprising for a writer whose novel Fight Club was adapted for a successful film, Palahniuk illustrates many of his points using movie references and metaphors, sometimes to excess. He reveals possibilities that are not merely off the beaten track in publishing, but which possess a portion of originality. Many writers have pioneered the use of fictional techniques in writing nonfiction, but the author often reverses the process, to powerful effect. This is also a scrapbook of his writing life, brimming with personal anecdotes instructive, amusing, or bizarre. As in his stories, Palahniuk writes for the outsider in all of us, and he wants our wellsprings of story ideas to come from as deep a pool as his own. He closes with brief recommended fiction and nonfiction reading lists and a useful guide to troubleshooting. Palahniuk is a savvy teacher, though one's acceptance of the complete body of his guidelines may hinge on the appeal of his own fiction, his minimalist bent, or his insistence that writing also might be a form of exorcism: resolving intractable personal issues through fiction. The author confides one key dictum: Do not write to be liked but to be remembered.

Constructive and accessible.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1795-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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