A wise, astute, and luminous literary commonplace book.

ORPHIC PARIS

Self-portrait of a prizewinning poet in search of himself in entrancing Paris.

“In part, I come to Paris because I am a dreamer. It is a place where I am able to escape the shadows,” writes Cole (Literature/Claremont McKenna Coll.; Nothing to Declare: Poems, 2015, etc.) in this delicate, affectionate, and reflective memoir. Originally serialized in the New Yorker, the book’s 17 parts are mini-essays exploring the Paris landscape, family, friends, films, being gay, and the art of poetry. One of the many questions the author poses throughout the book is, “why am I writing all this down, dear reader?” He answers, “I don’t want to conceal anything, or be surreptitious. Instead, I want to reveal something…that might otherwise remain dormant behind the intense beauty of Paris.” Cole visited a number of graves, including Baudelaire’s and his very good friend James Lord’s. While visiting Susan Sontag’s in Montparnasse, Cole describes himself as a “literary tourist….Cemeteries, after all, are for the living.” Stylistically, the book has a strong aphoristic feel to it. The text, a “landscape self-portrait,” is quietly understated in its reflections. Not surprisingly, at the heart of the book is poetry, Cole’s own and that of others, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens. I want my poems to seem rebellious…definite, self-sufficient,” he writes, “and true in what they represent, like expressionist paintings.” When “so much American poetry feels emotionally tepid and almost suburban,” Cole revels in the “organized violence” of Sylvia Plath’s poetry, which “extended the boundaries of the lyric.” For Cole, Paris is the “city of the beloved. Some say a man goes mad if he is without love.” The book’s ending, with its series of sentences all beginning with “J’aime,” is exuberant, Whitmanesque, Orphic: “and in this place, I wrote, I was nourished, and I grew.”

A wise, astute, and luminous literary commonplace book.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68137-218-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more