A poignantly provocative memoir.

HOME IS BURNING

In his first book, a 20-something recounts his battles with caring for a mother fighting cancer and a father with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

As a young professional newly graduated from college, Utah native Marshall was on top of the world. Not only did he and his siblings come from wealth and live with “the proverbial silver spoon jammed firmly up our asses”; he also had a job and girlfriend he loved in Los Angeles, a city he enjoyed for its “traffic and pollution and assholes speeding around in BMWs.” The one shadow on his good fortune was having a mother sick with cancer. But even that difficulty was one Marshall and his family had overcome thanks to his father, a man who had held chaos at bay with his unflagging devotion to them all. Then one day, Marshall learned that his father had been diagnosed with ALS, a disease that was “a real ugly motherfucker and…pretty much a death sentence.” At first, the family tried to carry on their lives as though nothing had changed. However, less than a year after the diagnosis, Marshall’s siblings told him that he needed to come home to help care for both parents. It was then he realized that “life [wasn’t] all about gin and tonics and sunsets.” For the next year, Marshall watched as his once healthy and active father declined into near total helplessness and his traumatized mother reeled from chemotherapy and drugs that addled her brain. Relationships between him, his siblings, and his friends strained to the breaking point. Marshall then had to face his own personal losses, which included the end of a long-term relationship he believed would culminate in marriage. Though the author’s potty-mouthed profanity can be trying, the book is funny, heartbreaking, and unapologetically crude. Strangely enough, as Marshall is forced into awareness of life’s harsher realities and grows up, his linguistic coarseness gives way to a narrative that manages to be quite touching.

A poignantly provocative memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06882-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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