Notable for its spare, intense prose and the author’s self-deprecating frankness about her failures as well as those of her...

AN EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION

A MEMOIR

Novelist McCracken (Niagara Falls All Over Again, 2001, etc.) relates her struggle to deal with the tragedy of a stillborn son.

She begins with a bizarre comment from a fan who suggested, years before the author miscarried, that she ought to write a book “about the lighter side of losing a child.” McCracken continually revisits this comment in a memoir as slim and piercing as a stiletto. She gradually reveals the horrors of her experience, peeling back layers of memories to reach the most haunting one: delivering her son two days after she learned that he was dead. In a series of artful vignettes, the author staggers rather than glides through her story. Quick, sometimes painful glimpses delineate her adored husband, her writing career, friends who did the right thing and friends who didn’t. McCracken and her English spouse were living in rural France during her first pregnancy. They playfully called the fetus Pudding, “for some complicated, funny-only-to-the-progenitors reason.” They visited several doctors, none terribly satisfactory, and so decided to have a midwife deliver. Immediately following the baby’s death on April 27, 2006, they burned much of what they’d bought for their son and fled to England, then to America, where she had a teaching position waiting. Just a few months later they learned she was pregnant again, and the couple again bounced from one doctor to another until they found a woman they loved. Their son Gus was born one year and five days after they lost Pudding. Through it all, McCracken struggled to write and to forgive herself. “Closure is bullshit,” she declares, but her memoir shows her achieving a sort of peace, though never a mindless tranquility.

Notable for its spare, intense prose and the author’s self-deprecating frankness about her failures as well as those of her loved ones.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-02767-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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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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