A lively memoir of cowpunching, roping, and riding. A couple of years ago, veteran West Coast journalist and founding editor of Big Sky Journal McCumber (Playing Off the Rail, 1995) decided by way of midlife crisis to remake himself as a Westerner: “I quit my comfortable job, started writing for a living again, divorced, and moved to a little town in Montana.” And what better way to become a true westerner than to become a cowboy? McCumber turned up at the gate of a nearby ranch under the shadow of the towering Crazy Mountains, confessed that he knew nothing whatever about cowboying, and asked for a job. He got one, and these pages detail his transformation from urban sophisticate to cowpuncher—and with none of the cloying sentimentality of the movie City Slickers. Mostly, McCumber writes, his work was backbreaking and unpretty: he had to hose down feces-caked corrals and trucks, treat bulls for venereal disease, mend fences in howling winter storms, and cope with separation from his children. He writes of all these matters assuredly and affectingly, describing well the “numbing sameness of the work and the dreariness of the season.” On the brighter side, he writes with obvious affection of the little tribe of cowboys in whose ranks he was made welcome—but only after proving himself willing to do the hard work required of the crew. McCumber’s glimpse into the world of real cowboying yields surprises for the uninitiated: his cowboys use high-powered radios, favor four-wheel-drive vehicles to horses, read modern British fiction, and eat lasagna. Far from the movie ideal, they turn out to be an unromantic but interesting lot, and McCumber does a fine job of bringing their daily lives to his readers. A solid addition to what might be called New Western Americana. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 10, 1999

ISBN: 0-380-97341-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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 19, 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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