The diary should appeal to readers of Keilson’s fiction but not most general readers.

1944 DIARY

The wartime diary of a celebrated novelist.

When Keilson (The Death of the Adversary, 2011) was in his 30s, he spent a period of time in hiding. In the early 1940s, the writer and psychotherapist fled to the Netherlands with his wife and daughter. But by 1944, the Netherlands had been occupied, and while his non-Jewish wife took their child to live elsewhere, Keilson acquired fake papers and moved in with the Rientsma family. During that period, the author had an affair with a younger Jewish woman, also in hiding, and composed a series of sonnets inspired by the affair; he also wrote fiction and kept a diary. Keilson’s novels were first published in English only a few years ago, to great acclaim. The diary will be of great interest to fans of his fiction. He describes the ups and downs of his passion for Gertrud, his wife, and Hanna, his mistress. Regarding Hanna and the sonnets she inspired, Keilson writes, “I have the feeling of having sucked everything out of her it’s possible to get, like out of a lemon…and then turned it into poetry.” Those sonnets are included in this volume. Searls, Keilson’s capable translator, tells us that the “poems are written in a clipped, tightly coiled German,” with “a wrought, elliptical, intense style.” Unfortunately, those tight coils don’t come across in translation; in English, the poems feel awkward—e.g., the first two lines of the first one: “I son, you daughter, children of one blood, / so bitter ripe for Death in his fierce mowing.” In the diary, Keilson also includes notes on his readings as well as speculation on what life will be like after the war. Surprisingly, he spends little time describing that war and his experience of it. “Meanwhile, heavy fighting in the Netherlands!” he writes, in late September. “Nijmegen, Arnhem!” But then, in the next sentence: “These events, however much they grip me, are no longer my real life.”

The diary should appeal to readers of Keilson’s fiction but not most general readers.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-53559-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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