Tertiary reading for buffs of the Mojave, who are better served by writers such as Deanne Stillman and Reyner Banham.

LOW LIFE IN THE HIGH DESERT

A CALIFORNIA MEMOIR

Late Australian documentary filmmaker and journalist Hirst spends a sequence of seasons with some of the California desert’s oddball inhabitants.

“Last year, no fewer than sixteen people went to be with Jesus within ten miles of my front door.” So writes the author of the deadly winding roads near his adopted home outside Pioneertown, a Manson-country enclave out in the Mojave Desert befitting Hunter S. Thompson–esque treatment. Hirst doesn’t quite attain the hallucinatory heights that would suit the odd surroundings, but they’re psychedelic all on their own, as he and his girlfriend take residence in a weird Mad Max–ish house “at the very end of Coyote Road, which, as most readers will know, snakes south from Roadrunner Rut and Gamma Gulch.“ Indeed, though it’s within spitting distance—meaning a 2.5 hour drive—from Los Angeles, the place is perched on the edge of Joshua Tree, a magnet for janglingly loose people from all over the world. Hirst portrays a few, including cowboy re-enactors, born-to-die parolees, and the man from whom he rented the aptly named Boulder House, a survivalist type given to exclaiming things like, “if I want to kill someone that’s my goddamn right, and I don’t give a red rat’s ass what anyone says.” Of his new home, Hirst writes, winningly, “if dogs could design and build a house, I expect this is about what they would have come up with." His character sketches are less successful, as after a time, one eccentric blends into another, and his history is sometimes sketchy: Junipero Serra wasn’t the nicest guy, but it’s a stretch to liken the California missions to concentration camps. Overall, the narrative is grittier but less substantial than what Robert Hughes might have done with the place; it’s often funny but rarely penetrating, and one always wishes for a little more.

Tertiary reading for buffs of the Mojave, who are better served by writers such as Deanne Stillman and Reyner Banham.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947534-31-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribe

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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