Masterful and mesmerizing; informative, rich, wise, and wonderful.

INTO AND OUT OF DISLOCATION

In his debut work of nonfiction, poet and academic Giscombe (English/Penn. State Univ.) searches for a possible 19th-century ancestor, a Jamaican miner and explorer whose surname, Giscombe, has become `affixed to the geography` of British Columbia.

Giscombe divides his memoir into numerous sections, but one serves as the principal string threading the beads of the myriad memories and musings that comprise this remarkable, moving work. These `Winter in Fort George` sections (Giscombe distributes more than half-a-dozen of them throughout) provide the closest thing to a traditional narrative structure, but even they sometimes wander off into unknown or unexpected territory—just as Giscombe himself is apt to do as he pursues by foot, bicycle, car, train, and airplane his ancestors and his interests, from Jamaica to British Columbia to Cornell to Illinois and Alaska. He writes that he endeavors `to live at some extremity, at places where my mortality might be visible to me.` Giscombe’s search for his obscure ancestor—for the reasons that a town, a rapids, a canyon bear his name—fuels an explosion of words and ideas that traditional organization cannot hope to contain. He moves effortlessly through time, back and forth and back again—each crafted sentence a wave that brings to shore a dazzling bounty of beauty and surprise. Such an array of subjects! From films by Chaplin to jazz by Miles Davis to bears, crocodiles, nighthawks, wolves, and foxes; from Chinese food in remote restaurants to family, race, sex (`Eros is eros, boys, everybody gets to play the fool`), pain, loss, the fraternity of cyclists, the inability of undergraduates to write essays, and meditations on the frailty of his own body (that `portable old site of my being alive`). As he considers the `tribes` that are our families, he concludes that each has `a lot of centers, a lot of stories, a lot of homeplaces and hearts.`

Masterful and mesmerizing; informative, rich, wise, and wonderful.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-86547-541-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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