This volume takes the author (A Reasonable Life, 1993) and his artist wife into the sensuous heart of Italy and urges them to stay against the comic and idiosyncratic odds that MatÇ calls the Italian way of life. Tourists in search of a break from the pressured rituals of New York, the MatÇs alight upon the area around Montepulciano, begin house-hunting in earnest, and fall upon a sort of paradise that they turn into home at last. All of this is superimposed against the backdrop of Tuscan seasons, rituals, and rustic anecdotes—which are far more interesting than any of the author’s reflections upon them. MatÇ never crosses that great cultural divide that hangs like a mist between traveler and native, keeping his real subject (Tuscany? himself?) forever at bay. Almost 100 pages of his memoir are devoted to the comic surprises of house-hunting and its incumbent bureaucracy, in which MatÇ rarely steps outside of pure caricature. Blissful about his marriage, rapturous about food and wine, MatÇ spends considerable time describing the sounds of bells tolling in the valleys after lunch, the fluttering of linen, and the aroma of chestnuts heating on a grill. But in the end, his recollections of everything else are little more than hot-air balloons tethered to nothing in particular. Lunches launch and cap the author’s foray into this personal paradise and frame the friendships he developed with his neighbors in one dimension. He is more passionately observant about mushrooms, grapes, the flavor of new oil, and the simple rustic life than about the human beings who opened these pleasures to him. They’re the missing link that makes one wonder if MatÇ likes his Italian neighbors at all. Tuscany is a most compelling subject for the telling, but Sonoma might have been just as inspiring to this author. At its heart, the hills of Tuscany echo hollow when MatÇ asks to call them home. (15 drawings) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1998

ISBN: 0-920256-38-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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