Delicious fun with a friendly nudge for readers on the fence about yoga.

POSER

MY LIFE IN TWENTY-THREE YOGA POSES

Enjoyable memoir about life and the provocations of childbirth made palatable with yoga poses.

Critic and essayist Dederer describes herself as a “self-conscious, hair-adjusting kind of person,” just the type to dismiss yoga and its purported physical- and mental-health benefits. She thought the exercise regimen was tailor-made only for “white people seeking transformation,” but when her back seized after lifting her newborn daughter, the many folks recommending yoga didn’t seem so crazy after all. Raising her daughter with her intermittently distant husband, also a writer, in a white, liberal, “well-intentioned” Seattle neighborhood proffered its own set of challenges, so she embraced yoga as part of a self-betterment project. Though some of the poses, Dederer wryly admits, seemed “porny,” and she digested its spiritual and metaphysical aspects with “an agnostic’s indifference,” the ten years that followed were transformational. Her three best friends—a new mother with bohemian ideals, a risk-taking young mother and a childless artist—provided support through the writer’s episodes of insecurity, the birth of her second child and a hilarious one-time attempt at pregnancy yoga (“nine ladies lying on the floor in a sunny room, farting”). The family’s big move to Colorado offered a cleansing breath of fresh air. Dederer’s bittersweet childhood and adult life is consistently engrossing and never becomes overshadowed by an eccentric family (though there’s great potential). The author’s parents are legally married, yet her mother has had a boyfriend for 25 years, and her brother is a former alternative-rock musician turned public-relations guru who insists that his parents get divorced. Through “coronal planes,” sutras and savasanas, from downward dog to lotus poses, Dederer contributes nuggets of yoga trivia paired with a droll, self-effacing delivery that’s both down-to-earth and pleasingly introspective.

Delicious fun with a friendly nudge for readers on the fence about yoga.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-23644-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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