There’s much to enjoy in these exuberant “notes.”



A joyful, wistful celebration of poetry, poets, and a poet’s life.

Personal matters that former poet laureate Hall wrote about in Essays After Eighty (2014, etc.) pop up again, this time with a greater sense of urgency: “As I write toward my nineties I shed my skin. I tell short anecdotes, I hazard an opinion, speculate, assume, and remember. Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” In the book’s fourth section, “A Carnival of Losses,” the author returns to stories about his New Hampshire life, relatives, friends, his appearances on Garrison Keillor’s radio show (where once—off air—they traded dirty limericks), watching baseball, and interviewing Boris Karloff in high school. Also included here is his somber and poignant New Yorker piece, “Necropoetics,” largely about his wife, poet and translator Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995. “Poetry begins with elegy,” he writes, as he ruminates on the subject. Poetasters will enjoy his “The Selected Poets of Donald Hall” section, pithy, sharp, and gossipy profiles and anecdotes about poets he has known and met, some slight—e.g., “my recollections of some poets are brief. Allen Tate always looked grumpy.” These are countered by those Hall loved, like Robert Creeley, Theodore Roethke, Seamus Heaney, and James Wright. Then there’s James Dickey, the “best liar I ever knew,” and Tom Clark, the “best student I ever had.” Hall’s admiring piece on Richard Wilbur includes a short, insightful passage on prosody in Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” The book’s first section, “Notes Nearing Ninety,” shows off Hall’s humor and wit, as in “The Vaper,” about how vaping helped him quit smoking (mostly), “The Last Poem,” about the only time he expressed his politics in a newspaper ("it went bacterial”), and a piece about frequently losing his teeth—literally.

There’s much to enjoy in these exuberant “notes.”

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-82634-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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 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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