A biography that somewhat illuminates a multifaceted figure, although key questions remain unanswered.

FIFTY YEARS OF BEGGING

Clarke (History/Jacksonville Univ.; Alliance of Colored People, 2011) presents a biography of his grandfather Protestant fundraiser Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke.

The elder Clarke was born in 1887 in Brooklyn, New York. He enjoyed the amusements of Coney Island in his youth, dropped out of public school at age 14, and learned from working as an office boy “how the lack of money can be inconvenient.” He later attended various schools, worked on freighters in the Great Lakes, and eventually became an ordained minister. In this position, he revealed himself as someone who could both entertain and persuade. In 1914, he took to the pulpit at the Christian Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and his sermons drew praise in the Indiana Evening Gazette. In time, he would use his strength as an orator to help raise money for charitable causes, such as Armenians in peril during World War I. He later turned to fundraising full-time and founded a Christian organization devoted to helping children abroad. The book explores the elder Clarke’s fundraising in depth; however, the story is most intriguing when examining his “second life of great merit”: his vocation as a writer. He published a number of novels under pseudonyms—many of them racy romances, such as Tenement Girl and Boarding House Blonde. In a novel titled The Slaves of Ishtar, the author says, “Clarke married debauchery with mysticism and demonic human sacrifice.” The fact that a respected Christian fundraiser had a side job writing about “demonic human sacrifice” is an astounding revelation that makes this biography a worthwhile read. Indeed, further exploration of the novels would have been revealing and welcome. However, the author leaves things vague about how aware the elder Clarke’s colleagues were of his writings; it’s also not made clear how the fundraiser managed to write so prolifically while engaged in his other activities. The author adroitly describes his subject’s charity work, but it won’t strike readers’ imaginations the way that the unpublished futuristic novel Doctor Time does, with its assortment of utopian oddities.

A biography that somewhat illuminates a multifaceted figure, although key questions remain unanswered.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4808-5548-9

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

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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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