Painfully honest and self-deprecating to the point of discomfort.

IT’S ONLY TEMPORARY

THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS OF BEING ALIVE

Best known for his work in Sex and the City and The West Wing, full-time character actor and part-time author Handler follows up his gripping memoir about surviving cancer (Time on Fire, 1996) with a collection of autobiographical essays.

They cover topics ranging from acting and psychotherapy to dating and selling an engagement ring; approximately half the essays are connected to his illness. Beating leukemia was obviously a defining moment for the author, and it’s hardly fair to criticize him for writing, often touchingly, about the experience. Still, the woe-is-me percentage is relatively high, and Handler’s self-pitying (and periodic self-flagellation) grows difficult to read by the book’s final third. Nonetheless, it has some fine moments. “Menace to Society” is a cockeyed, High Fidelity-esque rundown of notable girlfriends, and the author’s honesty about his roller-coaster love life is admirable. “My Life Story,” which details the attempt to translate Time on Fire into a screenplay, provides memorable entrée into the head of a writer (a scary place to be, as all writers know). Handler’s prose is readable, sometimes even clever: “When I was first shown the collection of buildings my father-in-law owns in Molinella, a small town in northern Italy,” he writes, “I immediately began calculating how much longer he might live.” The primary problem here is that the author seems like a decent person, but not necessarily the kind of guy with whom readers want to spend nearly 300 pages. His brutally frank and blisteringly angry debut was far more compelling.

Painfully honest and self-deprecating to the point of discomfort.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59448-995-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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