An intriguing historical document, particularly for readers who have a passion for West Africa and narratives of the...

Letters from Nigeria

A YOUNG AMERICAN OBSERVES A NEWLY INDEPENDENT COUNTRY, 1961-62

Personal missives to family and striking images reveal the daily lives of an American couple living in the West African country of Nigeria in the early 1960s.

As a couple of ambitious graduate students who’d advocated for the creation of a diplomatic “peace army,” even before the election of John F. Kennedy, Clark and her husband, Peter, were more than ready to drop their studies for the opportunity to live in Nigeria. From 1961 to ’62, she sent letters back home to her family members detailing the exotic landscape of Lagos as it underwent major change. She worked there as a secretary for various international organizations while Peter furthered his career in economics and international development, which gave them access to important political events as well as to the intoxicating sights and sounds of local markets. The author relates all of this in great detail in her letters, which she presents here mostly unedited; in them, she wistfully describes such things as the weekends that she and her husband spent sailing or the effect of the hot climate on Nigerian business hours. She also writes of developing a strong friendship with and reliance on their house servant, Columbus, as they tried to better understand their new home and eventually welcome their new child into it. Accompanying all of these reflections are incredible color photos, taken by Peter, that help immensely to illustrate the unique time and place. Clark writes earnestly about her desire to help the Nigerian people and about her discomfort at the class distinctions between masters and servants in society and in her own home (“Peter is always referred to as ‘Master’ and I am ‘Madam.’ Horrible”). However, her point of view throughout the letters is clearly rooted in her position as a wealthy expatriate; accounts of dinners with notable journalists and diplomats and of gossip from around the yacht club pepper the entries. The collection as a whole might have benefited greatly from stronger editing; aside from an excellent foreword and afterword, Clark offers few opportunities for contextualization and reflection beyond the letters’ personal, intimate nature. That said, the collection does offer stylish, enjoyable prose and keen observations on daily life in a fascinating place.

An intriguing historical document, particularly for readers who have a passion for West Africa and narratives of the expatriate experience.

Pub Date: June 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942155-13-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Peter E. Randall

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2016

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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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