A singular crack inside the gulag system.

THE DAY WILL PASS AWAY

THE DIARY OF A GULAG PRISON GUARD: 1935-1936

First published in Russian in 2014, this is the first American edition of a chilling, revealing diary of a reluctant gulag prison guard.

Chistyakov, whose last entry appears on Oct. 17, 1936, and whom translator Tait informs us died at the front of Tula Province 1941, during “the first months of the war with Germany,” was an educated Muscovite who somehow fell afoul of the Russian secret police and was conscripted in October 1935 to guard prisoners in the Siberian gulag. This was a punitive position in the harsh region of the frozen taiga, and Chistyakov was designated as a senior guard at the Baikal Amur Corrective Labor Camp, where creature comforts were few, escapes by the zeks (common criminals) frequent, and suspicions among officers rife. In her introduction, Irina Shcherbakova provides an informed sense of what the gulag system was all about: the importance of the strategic Baikal-Amur railway in the wake of Japanese occupation of Manchuria and takeover of the Chinese Eastern Railway and the need for cheap workers (unpaid forced labor) to live and work in these extreme conditions. Chistyakov’s diary entries reveal brutal details of his harsh living conditions, a sense of bewilderment at an educated man’s being stuck in such a wayward place with few literate people around him, shame at his sordid daily duties such as tracking down escapees, and ultimate despair about trying to find a way out. He even tendered a letter of resignation at one point, which was derided by the other officers, and contemplated suicide. While there are moments he found uplifting—a letter arriving, spring erupting, hunting, visiting the baths, editing the “wall newspaper”—his sympathy for the battered zeks gave way to his own sense of impending doom.

A singular crack inside the gulag system.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-460-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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 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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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