A thoughtful meditation on the painful process of self-knowledge.



Aras’ (The Fugue, 2015, etc.) memoir recounts a tumultuous childhood and an emotional visit to an Austrian concentration camp as an adult.

The author was born in Cicero, Illinois, in 1973, a “rusted manufacturing town” that borders Chicago’s West Side, where, he says, violence was accepted as a part of ordinary life. His parents were Lithuanian refugees who’d fled Soviet occupation in 1945 and were drawn to Cicero because of its Lithuanian community and its Catholic parish. There, Aras suffered terribly under the violent despotism of his father, he says, which would haunt him well into adult life. The author realized that the account of Lithuanian history that his family taught him was a heavily “edited,” anti-Semitic one, and that, by extension, his own identity “seemed concocted, with most adults I knew participating in its composition.” He later moved to Linz, Austria, and took a job as a teaching assistant, and lived there for three years. But he couldn’t make himself visit the Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial—a conspicuous reluctance that the author mines with impressive, introspective depth: “I had learned I had the consciousness of the victim and the perpetrator inside me all at once, and my suffering was the result of a war between them….I had avoided concentration camps because…I feared they’d offer one of these shades the opportunity to win out.” Aras’s remembrance is as philosophically moving as it is brief—fewer than 100 pages. Despite its brevity, the memoir’s confessional candor is profoundly affecting as Aras plumbs the depths of his tortured mind with great sensitivity and humility, as when, early on, he notes how the town of Cicero inspired a “conflicted sense of fear, sadness, concern, and bewilderment” in him. The memoir is part of the Little Bound Book Essay Series; it’s small in size—just 4 by 6 inches—and adorned with a few melancholic black-and-white photographs.

A thoughtful meditation on the painful process of self-knowledge.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947003-47-7

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Homebound Publications

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2019

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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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