JOHN CIARDI

A BIOGRAPHY

After editing collections of Ciardi's letters and poetry, Cifelli offers a record of Ciardi's accomplished life. As this diligently detailed biography shows, though Ciardi (who died in 1986) never got his long-hoped-for Pulitzer or a mandatory place in the anthologies, he compensated with a career that was lengthy, varied, and industrious—not to mention profitable. Ciardi, who became one of America's wealthier men of letters, was born in 1916 to an immigrant Italian family whose modest means were further diminished by his father's early death. A series of awards and useful contracts sped Ciardi's climb. He received the Hopwood Prize while a graduate student at the University of Michigan, gained an early contract with the New Yorker, secured teaching jobs at Harvard and Rutgers, and struck an editorial alliance with Twayne Publishers. On his elevation to directorship of the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Robert Frost wrote to him in 1956, ``By all signs [God] is playing you for one of his favorite boys, professor, publisher, lecturer, director, and accepted poet''—which left out Ciardi's success as the translator of an immensely popular, distinctly American version of Dante's Divine Comedy. Cifelli omits nothing in tracing the arc of Ciardi's life in letters, even noting the later dips, such as the negligible reception of his personal favorite among his books, Lives of X, and his ouster at Bread Loaf in 1972. Although Cifelli is less a narrator than a documenter, his use of Ciardi's letters, poems, and autobiographical fragments (and even his FBI file, begun in Ciardi's leftist days) makes up a more than adequate portrait, particularly of his wartime experience as a B-29 gunner in the Pacific theater and his contentious tenure as poetry editor of the Saturday Review. Never part of any movement or school, except perhaps that of craftsmanship, Ciardi's busy life spanned many hectic decades, and Cifelli provides a lively record of the man and his times. (31 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1997

ISBN: 1-55728-448-2

Page Count: 592

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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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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