One of those books you want to devour but realize it’s more satisfying to savor for as long as possible.

UNDER MAGNOLIA

A SOUTHERN MEMOIR

A captivating memoir by Mayes (Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life, 2010, etc.) recalling life growing up in a small Southern town and how the region permeated her psyche.

Though the author fled southern Georgia when she was a young woman seeking an alternative vantage point for experiencing life, the departure from her small hometown did not come without internal turmoil. “When I left the South at age twenty-two, the force that pushed me west was as powerful as the magnet that pulled me,” she writes. The author landed in the San Francisco Bay Area, “the optimistic bellwether for the country,” and called Italy home for a time. Eventually, Mayes built a life as a wife, mother, author and teacher. During a stop in Mississippi, the South once again forcefully insinuated itself into the author’s consciousness: “I’m pressed to know: why the exuberance and melancholy attacked me, why the abrupt heart flips, why the primal rush of memory, why this physical magnetism that feels dangerous….” Mayes and her husband then departed California for North Carolina. Larded with deliciously evocative sensory memories, the narrative dissects the author’s early years growing up in a loving yet turbulent family; her parents’ alcohol-fueled, long-troubled relationship; the verdant landscape dappled with hints of menace; the notion of home; and the role place plays in developing the psyche. Mayes recounts her childhood when she “didn’t know the word ‘racism.’ Black/white polarity was the God-given order of things.” She finds it “impossible to relive that state of mind.” Mayes recalls how the restrictive social atmosphere at the all-female college she attended chafed yet also provided space for developing a strong core self and lifelong female friendships. The author also captures the trauma of her father’s premature death followed by her mother’s long, sad decline.

One of those books you want to devour but realize it’s more satisfying to savor for as long as possible.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-307-88591-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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