A shrewd meditation on home, family, nature, and the author’s native South.

THE HOME PLACE

MEMOIRS OF A COLORED MAN'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH NATURE

An ornithologist writes about himself as a member of a rare and perhaps endangered species: the African-American birder.

Lanham (Wildlife Ecology/Clemson Univ.) describes himself as “an unusually colored fish out of water,” as someone who doesn’t “fit the common calculus.” He describes his upbringing in the rural South in a rapturous way that shows how nature became his religion, but he also knows why many of his race associate the land with harsher memories, backbreaking labor, and being treated as less than equal or even human. As he traces his singular path from the family homestead through higher education—he switched majors from engineering to zoology and lost his scholarship—Lanham occasionally succumbs to an excess of literary flourish and a penchant for alliteration in particular. In the space of less than five pages, he writes of “the sylvan savior of southern soil,” “the priceless places where nature hangs by tooth, talon, and tendril,” and “something furred, feathered, finned, or scaled that scurried, swam, or flew.” Yet when the published poet gives way to the memoirist, his experiences require no flowery expression. Perhaps the most powerfully provocative chapter is “Birding While Black,” which begins, “it’s only 8:38 a.m. and I think I might get hanged today.” Apparently, a lone black man with binoculars arouses suspicion in neighborhoods where Confederate flags abound. The author is also illuminating on what some might see as the contradiction in values between his passions for birding and hunting, in what he calls “my transition from a wine-drinking, cheese-eating ecologist to a beer-swilling, venison-chewing wildlife biologist.” Ultimately, he brings the memoir full circle in a search for roots that expand his sense of identity, as the home he once knew is not what it was but remains forever in his memory and his heart.

A shrewd meditation on home, family, nature, and the author’s native South.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-57131-315-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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