Offers a few laughs, but little else.

LAUGHING WITHOUT AN ACCENT

ADVENTURES OF AN IRANIAN AMERICAN, AT HOME AND ABROAD

Follow-up to Dumas’s warm debut, Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America (2006), expanding the timeline to span her life from childhood to motherhood, and everything in between.

Many of the pieces are nothing more than five-page campfire stories, such as the tale of a monkey who showed up on the balcony of her family’s apartment, or the article documenting the difficulty of tracking down somebody to translate her first book into Farsi. A few chapters, most notably the discussion of her uncanny memory for faces and dialogue, are less jokey and more observational. One highlight is a more-or-less direct transcription of a college speech; Dumas loves speaking at schools, “even though most of my invitations are prefaced with ‘Khaled Hosseini was not available.’ ” The author’s fleshed-out, Letterman-like top-ten list (“Write thank-you notes,” “Don’t get credit cards yet,” “Watch less television”) doesn’t necessarily impart the most important life lessons the youth of America will ever receive, but Dumas isn’t about teaching: She’s about entertaining the masses. Her gentle, acute observations of human nature are similar at times to those of David Sedaris, albeit with a considerably lower snark factor. In content, her essays recall comedienne Margaret Cho’s stand-up routines about her Korean family’s attempts to assimilate into the United States without sacrificing their identity. Dumas focuses on the lighter side of fitting in, a tactic that has its merits—she’s undeniably entertaining—but a few serious cultural insights à la Marjane Satrapi wouldn’t have hurt.

Offers a few laughs, but little else.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-49956-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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