A lovingly crafted portrait of a person and a place.

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A LIFE IN DREAMS

In fragments of memory and description, Fletcher (Descanso for My Father, 2012) recalls his mother’s life, his family history, and a New Mexico that’s disappearing.

In this unusual work of creative nonfiction, the author’s memories spill out like newly discovered treasures. In a narrative framed by his visit to his aging mother in his native New Mexico, Fletcher provides a series of prose poems—some short, some essay-length—inspired by artifacts that his artist mother “rescued” from the desert and his own explorations of places he heard about in childhood stories. The book lacks a strictly linear plot and is instead organized into eight thematic sections with titles that evoke their moods, including “homing,” “root,” and “nostalgia.” Fletcher’s prose vividly depicts the New Mexican landscape; for example, he describes a valley as “the small of a woman’s back, an earthen hollow beneath the shoulder blades,” and a river as a “mud-brown tapeworm.” When he arrives at his mother’s house during a storm, he realizes how little he knows “of her life—and how it came to be,” so he delves back in time, uncovering stories of his grandparents, his great-grandparents, and other ancestors, which border on folklore. Along the way, he pieces together a family history, with memories overlapping one another through multiple generations. In these stories, a complete picture of his mother gradually emerges—as a young girl, as a wife, as a widow, and as an artist. The tales sometimes evoke the supernatural, including “presentimientos,” or visions of loved ones at their deaths, which he says once “happened all the time.” These hints of magical realism complement the dreamlike writing and the prominence of the natural world in it. “We live in a world of miracles,” his mother says at one point. Fletcher’s book is a chronicle of all the quiet miracles that make a life.

A lovingly crafted portrait of a person and a place.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-938769-13-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Autumn House Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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