In this persuasive intellectual biography, Singal makes sense of Faulkner's thought by viewing him as caught between the cultures of the Victorian and Modernist eras. In the centennial year of Faulkner's birth, Singal (History/Hobart and William Smith Colleges), opens with a subject he calls largely unexplored—"the structure and nature" of Faulkner's thought. Singal believes the key to understanding lies in the ongoing "conflict of cultures" in which Faulkner lived— the morally absolutist Victorianism of his rural gentry youth and the more fluid concepts of the Modernism of his adulthood. After examining the persuasive influence of Faulkner's proper Victorian mother and Civil War hero great-grandfather, Col. William C. Falkner, he turns to the novelist's early encounters with Modernism, beginning with Mosquitoes, with which the writer entered "the darkened rooms and houses of southern history." Analyses of other novels follow, including Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August, and The Sound and the Fury, the latter representing Faulkner's "Modernist authorial self" taking hold (though, Singal believes, he never felt entirely at ease with Modernism), notably in the character of Benjy Compson, who repudiates the entire Victorian value system. While the book centers on textual analysis, Singal's forays into Faulkner's life ground the book and reveal the biographer's humanism and restraint. On the fact that Faulkner did not divorce wife Estelle to wed lover Meta Carpenter, Singal indicates an understanding of human connections, observing that "despite mental and sometimes physical warfare, genuine bonds of loyalty and even affection still united the Faulkners, who after all had been tight childhood friends." Singal also chronicles Faulkner's lifelong excessive drinking with a refreshing mix of largesse and scientific fact, admitting the possibility of alcohol's early benefits in liberating Faulkner's artistic inhibitions but detailing the effects of alcohol misuse, giving credence to his claim that alcohol eventually diminished his talents. Written with calm authority and offering a plausible new thesis, this is a worthwhile introduction to the next century of Faulkner.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 1997

ISBN: 0-8078-2355-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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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 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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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