A peach of a book, and with a recipe for raisins in the bargain—worthy of placement alongside the best of Wendell Berry,...

WISDOM OF THE LAST FARMER

HARVESTING LEGACIES FROM THE LAND

A graceful meditation on the work of growing food and its meaning across generations.

Long before Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver turned to writing about food, Masumoto (Heirlooms: Letters from a Peach Farmer, 2007, etc.) was chronicling his work on an 80-acre farm of peaches, nectarines and grapes, as well as vineyards and gardens, in the Central Valley of California. For most of that time, he has used organic techniques. “Organic farming is not simple or easy, and the physical work breaks me,” he writes. “It’s easy to want to be environmentally responsible, but it’s a damned hard thing to achieve.” Farming has taken its toll on his father as well, whom he honors as a model and teacher (“Dad taught me the power of recognizing problems, analyzing them, and identifying new ways to go about things”)—to say nothing of a helping hand at many critical, even dangerous turns. To be a farmer and survive at it is, Masumoto reveals, to be many things: trend analyst and futures broker, repairman and mechanic, geologist and hydrologist. It is also to be a good neighbor, on which Masumoto affectionately recalls his Japanese-speaking grandfather visiting with Italian-speaking immigrant neighbors and somehow communicating enough to jointly concoct what the author calls “Muscat sake grappa.” Masumoto’s memoir demonstrates that there is no end to the work and the physical, and sometimes fiscal, punishment. Yet he closes, happily, with the prospect of his daughter becoming a farmer, too, working a tradition and a promise renewed “out of love,” even while surrounded by a culture that, he sharply notes, does not reward difference or recognize excellence.

A peach of a book, and with a recipe for raisins in the bargain—worthy of placement alongside the best of Wendell Berry, Liberty Hyde Bailey and other literary farmers.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9930-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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