THE STAR FACTORY

A whimsical, witty romp through the streets of Belfast. Carson, author of numerous books on Ireland, has contrived an imaginative series of vignettes that illuminate his native city, hangout by hangout. Chapters begin with the description of an apparently random object or place—a chesterfield sofa, in one example—and loosely tie stories, memories, and folklore around that motif (a master of English and Irish alike, Carson can spend entire pages explaining the origins and meanings of place names). The son of a postman (Carson says he felt that as an adult, he should collect stamps to honor this legacy), tha author recalls his father as a quirky and engaging character who carried on conversations while in the outhouse and corresponded with people all over the world in Esperanto, just to escape the tyranny of the English language. The book is interspersed with legends and folklore, some of which are wonderfully amusing, most of which Carson translated himself from the Irish. He also, quite naturally, manages to parlay some facts; our Titanic-crazed culture should thrill to read the chapter on the ship’s construction in the docks of Belfast. (In a footnote, he tells us his family’s personal connection to the doomed vessel: his father was born the day she sank.) While the tone of most of the book is lighthearted (as when Carson reveals to us the titles of the books he keeps in his privy), there are also more serious undertones of violence and the IRA—mentioned only occasionally and always in passing when referring to some local landmark. Violence for Carson is just one part of the Belfast landscape—not to be dwelt upon, but not to be ignored. Carson’s imaginary ’star factory,— a place —where words were melted down and like tallow cast into new molds,— is freshly realized here. Beautifully written, with deep humor and a strong evocation of a very personal Belfast.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55970-465-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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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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