A well-informed perspective on early-20th-century literature.



A sensitive biography of an influential editor and critic.

Like his American counterpart, famed Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, Edward Garnett (1868-1937) nurtured a long roster of outstanding writers, including Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, D.H. Lawrence, Edward Thomas, E.M. Forster, John Galsworthy, and T.E. Lawrence. In her assured literary debut, Smith (Modern Literature/Univ. of East Anglia), director of her university’s master’s program in biography and creative nonfiction, draws on Garnett’s copious correspondence, critical writings, and memoirs of those who knew him to create a finely etched portrait of a man who exerted a quiet, decisive influence on arts and letters. From the age of 21 until his death, Garnett served as reader for several eminent publishing houses, beginning with T. Fisher Unwin, for whom he evaluated some 700 manuscripts a year, and including Heinemann, Duckworth, and Jonathan Cape, all literary publishers eager to identify new talent. “He has done more than any living writer to discover and encourage the genius of other writers,” Forster wrote, “and he has done it all without any desire for personal prestige.” Smith notes only a few instances of frustration, where he wished he had been successful for his own creative work. For the most part, though, he devoted himself to guiding other writers. He had the rare skill, she writes, “to ‘talk’ a book into being…adapting his approach to the temperament of the protégé, reassuring the timid, cajoling the reluctant and bellowing at the bloody-minded.” Smith examines Garnett’s personal as well as professional life: his devoted but unconventional marriage to Constance Garnett, an acclaimed translator of Russian literature; his siblings, friends, and lovers; the couple’s son, David, who forged a career of his own as writer and publisher. Garnett’s literary relationships could be intense: he saw Conrad as “a kindred spirit,” and he championed Crane’s “brilliant precocity.” “The born artist must be true to his own vision,” he once wrote, “the born critic to those of other men.”

A well-informed perspective on early-20th-century literature.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-28112-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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 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...


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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