A worthwhile glimpse into European colonialism and its literary chroniclers.

ELSPETH HUXLEY

A BIOGRAPHY

A sturdy biography of the Anglo-Kenyan novelist and essayist, the first such work devoted to her.

“Elspeth Huxley [1907–97] is best known for her writings on Africa,” writes English literary scholar Nicholls. “Yet as a young woman she was excessively impatient to get away from her parents’ farm there.” That impatience took Huxley (née Grant) to England, where she forged a long career as a writer of many kinds of prose, from radio scripts to lengthy memoirs. Only one of her books, The Flame Trees of Thika, published in 1959, was particularly well known in its time or is remembered today; Nicholls gives it, as well as Huxley’s other work, careful consideration, showing which parts accurately reflect Huxley’s childhood in Kenya and which are the products of pure invention. (“The book,” she concludes, “is a work of fiction, though many incidents are based on actual events.” Librarians and booksellers may thus want to reshelve it.) Huxley was intensely aware of her status as an overlooked writer, Nicholls remarks, though not particularly aggrieved by it. Some of her lack of fame she attributed to a dislike for the swirl of self-promotion (“I am a very bad public speaker and detest it, and hopeless on committees”), some to being dismissed by the literary establishment as a colonial, some to having spoken and written in qualified defense of white colonialism in Africa. Nicholls gives a good account of Huxley’s life and work, placing her in the milieu of the British East Africa of WWI and the England of WWII and beyond, charting Huxley’s course from ambitious youth to parsimonious, somewhat dotty old age. All the while, from decade to decade, as Nicholls capably documents, Huxley remained active and productive, championed by the likes of T.S. Eliot even as her readership dwindled and assignments came fewer.

A worthwhile glimpse into European colonialism and its literary chroniclers.

Pub Date: July 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30041-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more