Tedious and ultimately mediocre.

RAGE AGAINST THE MESHUGENAH

A MEMOIR

A nice Jewish boy reflects on his experiences with depression.

Evans initially positions himself as a 30-something descendant of the Borscht Belt. “I knew precisely what my future held,” he writes. “I would be a rabbi. I would be a learned Torah scholar who... would marry a Jewish woman (presumably one with a hairy mole on her face).” This approach provokes mild chuckles but little more. Growing up in the white-bread California suburb of Simi Valley, the author began wrestling with therapy during adolescence, due to “an epic battle of wills” with his overbearing parents. “My first therapist's name was Neil Diamond,” he writes, “but he didn't wear sequins, didn't bring me flowers, and most certainly did not turn on my heartlight.” Evans remained dismissive of the therapeutic process in his 20s, and focused on the accidental good fortune of a “hot blonde” wife and cushy job in advertising. In 2001, he was laid off abruptly, days before the 9/11 attacks. This juxtaposition of personal stress and national tragedy provoked the onset of more serious depression. By the standards of contemporary memoir, Evans’s “bottom” is less than impressive. He obsessed over porn, drank a lot and tried multiple antidepressants that interfered with his sexual functions—all of which seem like fairly universal rites of passage for white-collar men today. Over time, his experiences as a father and with his long-suffering wife began to improve, while his return to therapy (with a practitioner superior to “Neil Diamond”) allowed him to unpack his confused resentment over his upbringing, especially regarding the unique tribalism of American Jews. Unfortunately, the tone is overwhelmingly muddled and repetitive, and the narrative is riddled with the standard blog-influenced tactics of digression and incessant pop-culture references—as well as unpleasant flashes of juvenile misogyny.

Tedious and ultimately mediocre.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-451-22711-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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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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