An intriguing, if uneven, debut.

NOTES ON JACKSON AND HIS DEAD

Eighteen stories that flirt with both psychological horror and philosophical speculation through the unremitting setting of the ordinary life.

Fulham-McQuillan’s debut collection introduces the reader to a cast of hapless characters embroiled in situations that are increasingly difficult to define. In the title story, the speaker is a documentary filmmaker exalting in the singular opportunity to film Jackson, a former conductor beset by a sort of viral existentialism that results in all his past selves manifesting as corpses in the wake of his every movement. In “whiteroom” a man and his late wife have reduced their lives to the eternal simplicity of their pure white room in order to enter into a fraught immortality of the mind. In “A Tourist,” a man attracted by the memory of himself standing in a place before it fell to ruin “[visits] the grief of his past,” setting up camp in a desolate valley where he is haunted by a duo of shadowy others who attempt both communication and violence. To call these stories heady is an understatement of both their intent and form. Deeply influenced by continental philosophy (Kierkegaard is mentioned, Lacan is evoked, Simone Weil is quoted), the book also plays with the formal influence of Poe’s sensual grotesques, Dostoevsky’s tormented psychological realism, Borges' cerebral mythos. The results are ambitious and uneven. In “Winter Guests,” for example, the staff of a resort in the off-season report on the mounting tensions between a single guest and the beautiful female caretaker of a wheelchair-bound and totally bandaged patient. The story is haunting, suspenseful, and intricately detailed. Its philosophy lingers in the realization of its characters; its unanswerable questions rise organically from the setting of the winter seashore and the isolation of the nearly empty hotel. Other stories, however, are less successful and overwhelm the reader with their insistence on mingling Poe’s obsessive stylings with a more contemporary cynicism—or perhaps late-20th-century mass-produced weariness—reminiscent of Beckett or Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud. These influences make for an uneasy pairing, one whose tremendous potential is sometimes buried beneath a miasmic stylistic expression.

An intriguing, if uneven, debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-6287-287-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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