A fine work of environmental literature that demands a tolerance for detail and should inspire others to follow suit.

WILDING

RETURNING NATURE TO A FARM

Let land lie fallow, and things begin to happen. Let 3,500 acres lie fallow, and the world is remade.

The lands around Knepp Castle, in the English district of West Sussex, have been farmed intensively for centuries, and the estate was exhausted and was losing money. Enter the aptly named Tree (The Living Goddess: A Journey Into the Heart of Kathmandu, 2015, etc.) and her husband, Charles Burrell. Three decades ago, they came to the land with a pronounced fondness for mycorrhizae—the invisible, microbial life that teems in healthy soil, fed by decaying plant life, sheltered by tree snags, and the like—and a commitment to do something about the declining populations of species such as the turtledove, whose numbers are “an almost vertical dive” thanks to the wholesale industrial remaking of the British countryside. Tree describes the long, laborious process of turning back time, abandoning deep plowing and mass production in the effort to allow the land to regain some of its former health. And how it does: As she writes, triumphantly, just one sign is the “sixty-two species of bee and thirty species of wasp” that now buzz around locally as well as 76 species of moths and battalions of birds, including herons that “deserted their tree-top roosts in the heronry and were nesting a few feet above the water.” The author writes without fear of binomials and with long asides into hard science and deep descriptions of things like soil types and the characteristics of heritage pig species, and fans of Roger Deakin, Robert Macfarlane, Nan Shepherd, and other British naturalists will follow right along. Tree describes a success that she began to chart nearly two decades ago but that has been flourishing since: “The land, released from its cycle of drudgery, seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief. And as the land relaxed, so did we.”

A fine work of environmental literature that demands a tolerance for detail and should inspire others to follow suit.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68137-371-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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