The author deftly plumbs the depths of Mary’s psyche to enlighten us about both Shelleys and reveal the profound effects...

IN SEARCH OF MARY SHELLEY

THE GIRL WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN

A fresh biography of Mary Shelley (1797-1851), who created the monster that has become “part of our shared imagination.”

Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died just after she was born, leaving her and her older, illegitimate sister, Fanny, to be raised by her father, William Godwin. Since her parents were two of the leading political philosophers of the time, Mary received a fine education in the humanities, developing her reasoning skills. Godwin was also an anarchist and utilitarian who seemed to approve of the Romantic poets and free love—except for Percy Shelley. As his protégé, Shelley met Mary when she was 16, and he was married with a pregnant wife. They soon ran off to Europe and took Mary’s stepsister, Jane, with them. Throughout the marriage, they shared their talents and supported and encouraged each other. But Shelley handled money poorly, and they soon had to return to London to the first of innumerable homes throughout Europe. Jane, who soon changed her name to Claire, met and fell for Lord Byron and persuaded Percy and Mary to meet up with him at Lake Geneva. As Sampson (Lyric Cousins: Poetry and Musical Form, 2016, etc.) shows in this perceptive biography, it was there that Frankenstein was born, with Byron’s challenge to write ghost stories. Begun when she was 19, Mary’s novel, often considered the first work of science fiction, was finished and published before she was 21. With it, she changed the face of fiction, revealing the experimental spirit of the Romantic period. Unfortunately, their marriage was also experimental and filled with inequities. Shelley was a firm believer in free love, particularly for himself. After a series of pregnancies and only one surviving child, Mary still believed in their love, even more so after his death. Throughout, Sampson demonstrates why the story of Shelley and Frankenstein remains so intriguing, even today.

The author deftly plumbs the depths of Mary’s psyche to enlighten us about both Shelleys and reveal the profound effects they had on each other.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-752-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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