A spirited, entertaining collection.

I USED TO BE CHARMING

THE REST OF EVE BABITZ

Zesty essays by a sly observer.

Journalist and novelist Babitz (Two by Two: Tango, Two-Step, and the L.A. Night, 1999, etc.) gathers nearly 40 personal essays, book reviews, travel pieces, and celebrity profiles, published between 1976 and 1997, that give ebullient testimony to her colorful, star-studded past. “I have always loved scenes,” she writes, “bars where people come in and out in various degrees of flash, despair, gossip, and brilliance.” And she loved parties, too: “Nothing makes me feel worse than knowing I’m missing the right party.” She recounts parties galore: in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Miami, and New York; in swanky apartments, mansions, and nightclubs; attended by the rich, famous, and soon-to-be-famous—e.g., pre-Doors Jim Morrison. Babitz met Morrison at a Sunset Strip club when she was 22 and “propositioned him in three minutes, even before he so much as opened his mouth to sing.” He was sexy, seductive, and, she soon discovered, self-destructive: “Jim drank, got drunk, and wanted to be shown the way to the Next Whiskey Bar.” Sex, drugs, and rock and roll characterized “an entire generation” that became “dazzled by a drug with the density, force, and newness of LSD,” recoiled at images of napalm bombings, and surged together “As One waiting for the next Beatles album to come out.” But the generation learned a crucial lesson, as well: “that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” The collection includes a charming recollection of posing nude with Marcel Duchamp; sympathetic portraits of actors James Woods, Nicholas Cage, and Billy Baldwin; and a paean to her friend Linda Ronstadt, whose voice was “opulent with happiness and excellence.” Babitz muses on body-building gym culture; her efforts to lose weight with the help of “diet, amphetamines, and the gentle augmentation of cocaine”; the pain of yoga; and, in a particularly endearing piece, the unexpected pleasure of ballroom dancing. The title essay, never before published, recounts a 1997 accident that resulted in devastating third-degree burns.

A spirited, entertaining collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68137-379-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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