An elegant, candid meditation on the fraught journey to self-knowledge.

THE COST OF LIVING

A LIVING AUTOBIOGRAPHY

After divorce and her mother’s death, a writer struggles to redefine herself.

In a memoir notable for its graceful prose, two-time Booker Prize finalist, playwright, and poet Levy (Hot Milk, 2016, etc.) reflects on the new reality of her life after two nearly simultaneous events: the end of her marriage and the loss of her mother. Moving with her daughters into a “large shabby apartment,” she was determined to create “an entirely new composition” for all of their lives. “There are only loving and unloving homes,” she writes. “It is the patriarchal story that has been broken.” The author has much to say about ways that the patriarchal story erases women’s identity. For example, she met several men who refer to women only as men’s girlfriends or wives. At a party, one man never asked her one question about herself, all the while talking about his own books and his ailing wife. “It seemed,” Levy writes, “that what he needed was a devoted, enchanting woman at his side…who understood that he was entirely the subject.” That experience was hardly unusual: “It is so mysterious to want to suppress women,” she muses. “It is so hard to claim our desires and so much more relaxing to mock them,” she adds. Levy wonders about how desire shaped her mother’s life and how much her own desires shaped her perception of her mother: “If our mother does the things she needs to do in the world, we feel she has abandoned us.” Mothers receive “mixed messages, written in society’s most poisoned ink.” That poisoned ink infects any woman who dares to break from societal prescriptions. Rebellious women are expected “to be viciously self-hating, crazed with suffering, tearful with remorse.” But the author’s unexpected freedom from her role as wife liberated something “that had been trapped and stifled,” generating renewed energy. Still, she admits, “freedom is never free. Anyone who has struggled to be free knows how much it costs.”

An elegant, candid meditation on the fraught journey to self-knowledge.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63557-191-2

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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