By concentrating on telling a colorful, absorbing story rather than proving a point, Herrera moves and transports us.

UPPER BOHEMIA

A MEMOIR

Memories of a chaotic, peripatetic, and often magical childhood in the 1940s and ’50s.

In the preface to this excellent memoir—Herrera’s first, after acclaimed biographies of Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse, Maxim Gorky, and others—the author explains that she and her sister, in their 80s, have never been able to decide whether their mother was wonderful or terrible. “Our terrible mother gave [us] a wonderful life,” she writes. “And, she was not the only terrible mother.” Both of their parents, each married multiple times and only briefly to one another, were members of a class her mother called “upper bohemia.” Born into privilege from about 1908 to 1920, these free spirits dedicated themselves to artistic and intellectual pursuits as well as to their own pleasure. When it came to raising children, they were usually inconsistent and haphazard. Herrera’s parents “were stars within their own community. They were talented and intelligent, but their most important asset was their beauty.” For the remainder of the book, the author slips beneath the surface of her childhood, spent on Cape Cod and in Manhattan, Boston, and Mexico. She maintains the perspective she had on events at that time, vividly evoking the little girl at the center of this story: her curiosity, pain, constant concern about her weight, disappointment in her father, and idolization of her mother. In 1950, when the girls were with their father in Cape Cod, their mother appeared in a car she called the “Coche de Mama” and drove them straight down to Mexico. The author’s accounts of the drive and the years in Mexico are highly cinematic, and Herrera avoids the excessive commentary, analysis, blame, and self-pity common in this type of memoir, allowing readers directly into the experience. In a satisfying epilogue, the author fills in the rest of the story up to the present day. The black-and-white photos attest to the beauty of the settings and all the people in them.

By concentrating on telling a colorful, absorbing story rather than proving a point, Herrera moves and transports us.

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9821-0528-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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