An unvarnished, mostly bewildered and touchingly human memoir.

WAY BELOW THE ANGELS

THE PRETTY CLEARLY TROUBLED BUT NOT EVEN CLOSE TO TRAGIC CONFESSIONS OF A REAL LIVE MORMON MISSIONARY

Two years as a Mormon missionary in Belgium.

Harline (European History/BYU; Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America, 2011, etc.) spends a good deal of this reminiscence clowning around in a charming fashion, like the harmless and naïve teenager he was when he accepted a two-year mission to proselytize the Mormon faith in Belgium. Unfortunately, Belgium was a land of Catholics, and Harline had been taught “that the Catholic Church was wicked. And weird. The Church of the Devil. The Whore of All the Earth….Wouldn’t all those Belgian people in Catholic darkness be glad to see me?” However, the Belgians were not in the market for Harline’s goods, and the author knew he was not cut from the proselytizer’s cloth. He did not like the doors shut in his face, the poor Belgian weather, the dogs sent out to investigate his presence, the occasional display of firearms and, probably most of all, the near misses. Furthermore, he had to conduct himself in Dutch, a language he found “close to alarming.” But he was not without faith and humor; he was not just a devout young man, but a searcher. He was open to the sublime, and he found it in Belgium’s timeless places, such as a forest near the village of Godsheide in the late-afternoon winter light, where “we knew we were in some other world, like we and every person, thing, and place we’d ever known, done, or been were all there too, at once…toujours vu, always seen.” Along the way, Harline learned a lot about being himself and had many profound experiences. In his memoir, he displays a fine mix of pathos and hilarity as he describes imagining what people made of his Dutch, laughing at his “stainless-steel suit,” and giving thanks for the virtues learned and the connections made.

An unvarnished, mostly bewildered and touchingly human memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8028-7150-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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