The brief, years-later section tacked on at the end is insubstantial, following, as it does, the scorched earth of what came...

WHAT WE LOST

A childhood you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy: a series of mistakes, tribulations, and brutality, tempered by the sanctuary of an uncle’s farm in the Catskills.

Related in the third person, which affords a modest buffer to the story’s grim terrain, novelist Peck (Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye, 1998, etc.) tells of his alcoholic father stealing into his room, which he shared with seven brothers and sisters, in the middle of the night, toothless and giddy on cough syrup, whining (“I owe my troubles to a savage wife”) and slurring that he wants Dale out of the squalor and the thrashings he receives from his mother, administered with a length of hose complete with the metal head. The dairy farm of Uncle Wallace and Aunt Bessie is no walk in the park, a shambles of an operation—“Dinner, sleep, morning reveille and sixty swollen udders eager to be drained, world without end, amen”—that Peck helps to drive almost insolvent. There are a few shining set pieces here: when Peck embraces a sense of place (“the land, history, time itself, absorbs all the things people forgo and forget”); and again, when a cow nears death as a result of his bungling, when he curls up next to the cow’s belly, warm as a campfire in the winter night, pining for “the body-stuffed bed of his parents’ house,” despite its unspeakable occupants. His ultimate choice of immediate family over the aunt and uncle is mind-boggling, especially after another depiction of his father, crawling around the floor of the family house, thoroughly inebriated, being humiliated by wife and police officers: “Mercy, sir,” the father pleads, and then fouls himself.

The brief, years-later section tacked on at the end is insubstantial, following, as it does, the scorched earth of what came before.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-25128-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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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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