FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE

An evocative, superbly written tale of a woman's journey to self-understanding. To young Aussie Brooks, the name of the street on which she lives, Bland Street, says it all. Bright and restless, she yearns for far more exciting, cosmopolitan venues than what she considers the backwater city of Sydney. And so Brooks tries to alleviate her intense wanderlust by gathering pen pals from around the world. Through them she figures she can live vicariously until she's old enough to leave this pit-stop of a country. In due course, she writes to Joannie, an American who summers in Switzerland and Martha's Vineyard; to Janine, a French girl whose provincial life surprises Brooks the adolescent but becomes an object of envy for Brooks the adult; Cohen, an Israeli teen who satisfies Brooks's fascination with the Jewish faith; and motley others. At length, Brooks (Nine Parts of Desire, 1995) does indeed find a way to live out her dream. An award-winning Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent, she becomes the paper's ``fireman,'' a moniker given to reporters who are able to cover particularly difficult situations and topics. Five wars and thousands of frequent-flier miles later, Brooks finds herself back in Sydney, in midlife going through family artifacts as she awaits her father's death. She comes across a bundle of old letters from her pen pals and decides to track them down. Foreign Correspondence is the story of Brooks's quest and her coming of age in the '60s and '70s. Alternately stirring and humorous, it offers an incisive emotional and spiritual travelogue, as well as the chronicle of an era. Particularly poignant are the sections devoted to Joannie, Brooks's alter ego, who dies an early death from anorexia. Brooks discovers what many of us learn only as we age—that there's no place like home. (8 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48269-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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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