Danticat takes on an unpleasant topic with sensitivity and passion.

THE ART OF DEATH

WRITING THE FINAL STORY

A guide to writing—and reading—about death.

National Book Critics Circle Award winner Danticat (Claire of the Sea Light, 2013, etc.) adds to “The Art of” series with this work on how writers approach the topics of death and dying. Though the book is slim, it is overarching and broad in scope. Drawing on an array of writers, Danticat presents a wide range of approaches to death, including her own. Having written extensively about her mother’s death, for which she was present, the author lends a deeply personal touch to this study. She truly finds her stride after first surrounding readers with the almost impossible depth of her topic. Though not tied to a structure, Danticat explores the varieties of death and how each one is approached by writers. Suicide, execution, natural death, and accidental death all receive attention. Collective deaths also play a role, especially 9/11 and the Haitian earthquake of 2010. The author also examines suicide through the works of writers as diverse as Tolstoy, Faulkner, Albert Camus, Dylan Thomas, Zora Neale Hurston, Christopher Hitchens, and Toni Morrison. For executions, she shares the wisdom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a death row inmate. Regarding death as an all-encompassing end to life, she smartly draws from Gabriel García Márquez. Most movingly, Danticat brings her audience into the very private realm of her own mother’s death from cancer. She writes of the tests, the diagnosis, the decline, and the final hours and moments as her mother slipped away. Though faith and fear both come up in this book, they are not highlighted. This work is more about how death is described in literature, and the author asks if we really can describe it adequately at all.

Danticat takes on an unpleasant topic with sensitivity and passion.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55597-777-1

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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