Spirited stories about appreciating life’s vagaries.



This follow-up volume of 13 autobiographical essays depicts a life “on destiny’s merry-go-round,” alternating witty anecdotes of good luck and bad. 

Aboulafia (Snapshots from My Uneventful Life, 2015, etc.) believes “we are a reflection of what we experience in this world,” which in his case means a blend of minor disasters, averted crises, and everyday epiphanies. Even as a child, he tested his limits and assessed relationships. “Date Nut Bread,” about a dubious 1970s foodstuff from a can that often appeared in his lunchbox, was a symbol of his mother’s failure to understand kids; others got trendy treats like Oreos and salami. “The Test” recalls his alarmingly low IQ test score when entering first grade—though his reasoning was actually more advanced than the test could show. He objected that a drawing of a smiling cat jumping into a car didn’t represent happiness because cats don’t like riding in cars. Such analytical thinking skills later served the author well as a school administrator and lawyer. As in the first book, he gets a lot of comic mileage out of his youthful indiscretions, such as speeding while in possession of a suspended driver’s license. But he was still making laughable mistakes into adulthood, like when he and his wife ordered martinis from their Cape May hotel bar, not realizing they were the size of eight regular drinks. The longest essay, “Death By Whatever,” is a rollicking tale of multiple hazards narrowly avoided on a Florida vacation, such as big waves, horseflies, and barracudas. “The Ring” is the almost Solomonic fable of Aboulafia and his brother fighting over their ill father’s pinky ring, while “Scrooged!” tells of an office prank pulled on mean-spirited co-workers. Some of the more serious pieces—one about an oil burner repairman who taught him to let go of anger and another about spreading the ashes of his father’s friends—are so short they’re over before they’ve hardly begun. Overall, there are fewer memorable moments and an irksome superfluity of italics, but the mischievous tone still shines through. 

Spirited stories about appreciating life’s vagaries.

Pub Date: June 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78099-374-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Roundfire Books

Review Posted Online: June 19, 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 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...


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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