Entertaining, ardent tales from an era of stargazing that may not last much longer.

THE LAST STARGAZERS

THE ENDURING STORY OF ASTRONOMY'S VANISHING EXPLORERS

An astronomy professor captures the human stories—from the quirky to the luminous—of her discipline.

Levesque, whose research “is focused on understanding how the most massive stars in the universe evolve and die,” got her first taste of formidable telescopes while a student at MIT. Hardly an amateur endeavor, the author was dealing with serious, massively expensive machines—e.g., at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, Kitt Peak in the Sonoran Desert, and Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Regardless of the gravity of her studies, there is plenty of romance and adventure in the recounting of her nights, whether she is standing in the cold beside the telescope looking through the eyepiece or contending with the giant tarantulas that find a home in the observers’ room. In a bright voice, Levesque covers wide ground, observing details both atmospheric—“the dark cool nights, the quiet hum and shift of moving telescopes”—and mundane: “laboring through the repetitive and tiring efforts required to get the data in the first place.” She tells fun stories of scorpions in the dormitories and swarms of ladybugs plaguing the telescopes, but she also looks at the history of sexism at the observatory and the cultural friction that may erupt around the positioning of a particular telescope. Perhaps where Levesque shines brightest is in her descriptions of the “raw human appeal” that comes from experiencing celestial phenomena, whether it’s accessible (eclipses) or arcane (evidence of gravitational waves and gamma ray bursts). There are moments of gratifying serendipity in discovering a new star classification. However, the author suggests, today’s remote viewing (i.e., the telescope in southern Argentina and the viewer in New York City), while a critical advancement regarding data collection, robs the thrill of making difficult journeys to distant telescopes.

Entertaining, ardent tales from an era of stargazing that may not last much longer.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8107-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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