An author who vaunts his “likable kookiness” finds fresh invention in the sum lessons of his life.

REPORT ON MYSELF

A MEMOIR

Tender, witty memoir about the contortions of childhood and first love.

French author Bouillier (The Mystery Guest, 2006) delights in the pell-mell selection from his life story of seemingly random details that carry a mythological significance, such as names (his own surname means “small birch forest”) and dates. Born in Algeria in 1960 while his father was performing compulsory military service, he moved with his parents and older brother first to Lyons, then to Paris when he was five. Early on, he contracted staphylococcus aureus, possibly from licking the windows of a train. He lost his sense of smell and nearly died from the virulent infection, but “was more than a little proud of having caught something that turned out so difficult to spell.” Bouillier later re-created the “toxic shock” of this event when he met one of the defining loves of his life, Laurence, on a train. His childhood was marked by the accidental scalping of his best friend on the playground, the breakup then rapprochement of his volatile parents and his love for Marie-Blanche Fenwick, the daughter of a haute-bourgeois family residing near the Champs-Elysées. His glimpse of Madame Fenwick washing her bottom over a bidet suffused the nine-year-old with a sense of beauty and redemption, swiftly eclipsed when a drug scandal sent the Fenwicks fleeing from the country. Later, Bouillier recognized he had tried to recapture that glorious feeling of youth by plunging into a doomed romance with a girl in a dove-gray blouse who lured him to the Gulf of Mexico, dove-gray and golf being two emblematic words associated with Madame Fenwick. (And golfe being the French word for gulf.) Left at wit’s end after the girlfriend vanished, he returned to his parents’ home, plunged into Homer’s Odyssey and put aside painting for literature: “It was my sacrifice for continuing to live,” he says.

An author who vaunts his “likable kookiness” finds fresh invention in the sum lessons of his life.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-96861-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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