At times slowed by passages brooding over the landscape, this careful, accretive work is worthy for its testing of loyalty...

WEEDS

A FARM DAUGHTER'S LAMENT

An only daughter’s eloquent lament for her family’s farm, seasoned with dashes of feminism and naturalism.

Funda (American Literature/Utah State Univ.) considers the legacy of being raised during the 1960s in a patriarchal family of Czech immigrants and in a small town in Idaho that expected girls to marry and forsake their agricultural roots. Her debut is not, however, a straightforward narrative of generational change amid hardships; rural life expands here into a canvas for literary as well as personal reflection. Funda ranges over subjects as diverse as seed hybridization, ex-urbanites, early-20th-century Idaho, storytelling, postwar exile and mutable family mythologies. The resounding theme is her search for home. “A weed, by definition, is a plant that isn’t valued where it grows, which, to my mind, always leaves open the possibility—that great dream of the transplanted, the pioneer—of finding a place where you’re allowed to flourish,” she writes in one of several clear, fitting analogies for coming into one’s own. Her understanding of identity was shaped by such writers as Willa Cather, who broadened her perspective on the role of women on farms, and by a later trip to the Czech Republic, where she realized that her agricultural heritage came from her mother and, more poignantly, that she “could have roots in one place and grow in another.” Funda’s mother is the subject of the book's finest chapter, “Wild Oats,” which reveals a remarkable woman—former dissident, cosmopolitan European, stoic transplant to sagebrush country—and meditates with tender restraint on the aftermath of her death.

At times slowed by passages brooding over the landscape, this careful, accretive work is worthy for its testing of loyalty in memory’s kiln.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8032-4496-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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