A hushed but resonant literary memoir.

The Quiet Tides of Bordeaux

Lambert (Termcraft, 2014) records the life a 20th-century schoolteacher in Bordeaux.

At the end of this biography of Madame Hébert, formerly Micheline Ponthier, Lambert writes that the nonagenarian felt gratified that someone had finally put her life down on paper. “The past was not hers anymore now that it existed in a written form, and it would be up to the reader, especially the younger generation, to draw a lesson from it.” The lesson is embedded in the history of a woman, born in 1916 France, who worked as a teacher when the Germans invaded in 1940. Against the backdrop of World War II, the young Catholic Micheline entered into a forbidden love affair with a young Protestant doctor. The relationship was doomed. After the war, Hébert became the director of a training center for women and married a widower with children. Decades later, after her husband, too, had died, Hébert worked with the author to attempt to quiet the competing forces of her recollection and set her memories in order, putting to rest the dead and finding redemption for the living. The book is an unorthodox biography. The names used to describe the characters appear to be pseudonyms (the book is dedicated to a “Madame H***”). The work is as much about the creation of biography as it is about Hébert herself. Lambert exists as a gentle presence at the margins, the receiver of Hébert’s musings and memories. We learn of a previous attempt at setting things down: “Madame Hébert had decided to hire a ‘ghostwriter,’ but the final product failed to satisfy her: one hundred and one pages for a life, her life, filled with emptiness and clichés.” Included along with her sometimes stream-of-consciousness thoughts are many letters, photographs, and drawings of various sites in Bordeaux. The mixed media, along with the blurred line between biography and literary novel, brings to mind the writings of W.G. Sebald. The fractured nature of the narrative, dotted with artifacts of the past, provides a compelling method for telling the story of a life marred by war and loss.

A hushed but resonant literary memoir.

Pub Date: May 25, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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 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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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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