Between the year 1946 and the year 1955, I did not file any income tax returns", so begins the True Confession of the Dean of American Critics, Edmund Wilson, in a book bound to cause comment and serious concern. In short off-the-cuff "essays", the delinquent Mr. Wilson pays his unremitting disrespect to the IRS, a position the subsequent record shows to be only too reasonable indeed, both the personal, professional and, ultimately, "patriotic" sense. Charges Mr. Wilson: "the question of what ought to be taxed and how much and which deduction ought to be allowed" is ensnared in such legislative and linguistic tangles as to resemble a "bureaucratic theology"; among other things it encourages snooping and informing as in the Soviet Union, and develops competing national industries either for tax dodgers or tax collectors. It is a mess, and as a part of Mr. Wilson's experiences demonstrate can be quite as fantastic and as frighteningly funny as a Gogol tale. Only it doesn't stop there, since 70% of all taxation continues the Cold War tradition of more and more nuclear and bacteriological weaponry, more and more governmental control, and a devastating lessening of responsibility or rebuttal on the part of citizens. A stand must be made; henceforth Mr. Wilson shall make "as little money as possible" and so keep below the taxable levels. Now no matter how many holes one could punch in Mr. Wilson's argument and no matter how often he seems to be speaking in a curmudgeonly manner of a Roman Senator lecturing the State, beneath everything a moral earnestness is definitely involved and a social issue of pronounced importance presented. Let us be grateful for so courageous an entry into so controversial an arena.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1963

ISBN: 0374526680

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Co

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1963

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?