An earthy, homespun and voyeuristically satisfying book.



Twelve months of natural splendor on Vancouver Island’s eastern coast.

The stretch of wetlands where novelist and former collegiate professor Szanto (Never Hug a Mugger on Quadra Island, 2011, etc.) has spent the past decade is located on Gabriola, a British Columbian island the size and shape of Manhattan but with only 4,000 residents. From September to August, Szanto offers a lushly rendered, one-year pastoral chronicle of life in and around a marshland bog as observed by a seasoned writer who is both enamored and emotionally buoyed by it. Amid descriptions of the bog’s natural beauty and delicate ecology, the author also incorporates personal anecdotes of random eyesight maladies, baking homemade bread, the hoarfrost in winter and salmon fishing in summer. More momentous events follow, such as surviving the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, his courtship of his wife and the deaths of his parents, whose escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna is described in gripping detail. Even richer moments include a touching midwinter dinner gathering with friends who’d all survived life-threatening illnesses. But it’s the vibrant, abundant bog just outside his windows that takes center stage as the author delightfully surveys iridescent dragonflies, raccoons and countless bird species. Though the hazards of country living are numerous, they only seem to bring out the author’s indefatigable temperament. After a nasty hornet sting that nearly killed him, Szanto resolved to keep the extinguished nest, situated above his front door, “as a war memorial.”

An earthy, homespun and voyeuristically satisfying book.

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-927366-08-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Brindle & Glass

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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