Through dogged efforts and happenstance, Viviano pieces together a tale of thwarted love and murder, but his warm and...

BLOOD WASHES BLOOD

A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, MURDER, AND REDEMPTION UNDER THE SICILIAN SUN

A reporter’s strange odyssey into a dark family history, set against the violence, secrets, and ancient ways of Sicily.

San Francisco Chronicle foreign correspondent Viviano (Dispatches From the Pacific Century, 1993) had a special affinity for his grandfather, a proud, enigmatic Sicilian with whom he shared an enduring wanderlust. Before his death in 1993, his grandfather revealed to him a family legend of lu monacu (“the monk”): The author’s great-great-grandfather was a notorious Sicilian bandit who dressed himself as a priest and was killed in a vendetta with the Mafioso Domenico Valenti in 1870s. Like all good reporters, Viviano was unable to pass up a story, so he set off for Sicily to unearth the reality behind this family myth. In the little town of Terrasini, the author quickly made his way among the hospitable locals and was “adopted” by the Meddicani (Sicilians who had repatriated from America). This warm reception hid darker realities, however, and his investigation was initially stymied by archivists, bureaucrats, and local gossips alike. Viviano found himself haunted (and the locals “entranced”) by the ongoing Mafia trials, which followed the assassination of numerous law enforcement figures. He met the revered prosecutor Judge Falcone (who seemed to “direct his own murder trial from the grave”) and his nemesis Toto Riina (a vicious Don who murdered the entire families of the pentiti, or testifying mobsters). He eventually came to view the legendary Sicilian brand of chesty, libertarian self-interest as a metaphor of the world at large, just as he became entranced with the customs of the region—the robust meals, eccentric companions, criminal fiefdoms, and ominous traditions of loyalty and silence.

Through dogged efforts and happenstance, Viviano pieces together a tale of thwarted love and murder, but his warm and (mostly) convincing take on the world’s most permanent outlaw society is ultimately more memorable.

Pub Date: May 8, 2001

ISBN: 0-671-04158-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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