Gentle reflections on love, family, and heritage.



A writer’s life amid tremors of war.

In his debut book of nonfiction, Israeli writer Keret (Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, 2012, etc.) chronicles seven years bracketed by two momentous events: the birth of his son, Lev, and his father’s death from cancer. The author represents each year with a handful of musings, some serious, others frothy. He recounts an absurd conversation with a telemarketer, for example; silly dedications he makes up during Hebrew Book Week; growing a mustache as a birthday present for his son; his lackluster efforts to exercise; and Lev’s many cute remarks. The best pieces are quietly moving. After a neighbor asked him if he had considered whether his son, then 3, would join the army, Keret was surprised that his wife had already made her decision. “I don’t want him to go into the army,” she announced. Would she rather have other people’s children fight instead? Keret asked heatedly. “I’m saying that we could have reached a peaceful solution a long time ago, and we still can,” she replied, but not if Israeli leaders “know that most people are like you: they won’t hesitate to put their children’s lives into the government’s irresponsible hands.” One day as they were driving, an air-raid siren blared. Lev refused to lie down on the side of the road until Keret devised a game of “Pastrami Sandwich,” with he and his wife as the two slices of bread and Lev the pastrami between them. It was such fun that Lev wanted to play Pastrami “if there’s another siren…but what if there aren’t any more sirens ever?” he worried. “I think there’ll be at least one or two more,” Keret assured him. After a Polish architect built the author a minimalist house in Warsaw, reflecting his stories’ spare structures, Keret sat in the kitchen eating jam “sour with memories.” His mother grew up in Warsaw and became an orphan after the Nazis killed her family.

Gentle reflections on love, family, and heritage.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59463-326-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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 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...


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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