Insightful, generous, and perfectly pitched: a good nonfiction companion to Before Women Had Wings (1996), Fowler’s novel...

WHEN KATIE WAKES

A MEMOIR

From popular novelist Fowler (Remembering Blue, 2000, etc.), a searing and finely crafted memoir of youth and adulthood stunted by abuse.

The author’s great achievement is to demonstrate convincingly how intelligent and accomplished women can become trapped in destructive situations that seem inescapable. In her case, Fowler admits, a tender heart as well as emotional vulnerabilities made her susceptible to abuse. She loved her parents, who had endured tough times and been beaten as children themselves: how could she blame her father for drinking too much and beating her mother? Then, when he suddenly died, Mama “with not a clue how to manage . . . plunged deeper into the family tradition: mean bitterness fueled by alcohol.” Teased unmercifully about her buckteeth, Connie was sure she was ugly and an easy mark for the abusive man who later told her she was stupid as well. She begins her story with that unnamed man, an aging, alcoholic former newscaster she’s living with in Tampa, Florida, in 1984. He’s promised to help the 26-year-old college graduate become a writer, but in truth he himself is washed up professionally. Their relationship is platonic—he claims to have testicular cancer—but he frequently goes off with other women; she pays his bills, cooks and cleans, and endures his brutal physical attacks. She acquires a dog, Katie, whose love is an abiding comfort, begins a promising writing job on a local magazine, and falls in love with coworker Mika Fowler, an unhappily married photographer. But, even when her abuser steals the money she’d saved to fix her teeth, it takes a while before she has the courage and conviction to leave.

Insightful, generous, and perfectly pitched: a good nonfiction companion to Before Women Had Wings (1996), Fowler’s novel covering similar territory.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-50201-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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