Academics writing about Foote’s life and work will have to slog through these unselective, self-indulgent memoirs; other,...

BEGINNINGS

A MEMOIR

A wearisomely folksy account of a young actor’s apprenticeship in the 1930s.

Renowned playwright Foote takes up where Farewell (1999) left off, with his Depression-era departure from his hometown of Wharton, Texas, for a now-defunct acting school in Pasadena, California. He arrived in Pasadena a polite young rube and, judging by the aw-shucks narrative voice, left a polite young rube who could act. Considering that Dorothy Parker was then in her acerbic prime, it’s astounding that he could manage—particularly given a life in the theater—to have remained so untouched by irony or worldliness. Foote’s naïveté is initially endearing but eventually cloying. Given his distinguished career in the theater and the movies, he obviously has a fine and discriminating mind. Yet the performer who emerges in these pages shows no promise whatsoever. Nor does the more retrospective author allow himself any discriminating comments about the productions he watched or took part in, the theatrical training he enjoyed, or his own emotional development, if indeed it ever occurred. When he confides that Pauline Lord’s performance in Ethan Frome was the “most moving” that he ever saw, he never describes what so impressed him, but simply excerpts the New Republic’s review of the show. Meanwhile, Foote adds enough descriptions of friends and events presumably of great interest to the author (an entire chapter is devoted to his appendectomy) to make him a double for your most rambling uncle—for example, when he repeats nearly verbatim the story of a friend’s announcement that she is off to Germany only seven pages after already having mentioned it. The memoir cries out for a ruthless editor to help the octogenarian author give shape and meaning to his narrative.

Academics writing about Foote’s life and work will have to slog through these unselective, self-indulgent memoirs; other, luckier souls can just say no.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-7432-1115-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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