BOURGEOIS BLUES

AN AMERICAN MEMOIR

Growing up in the black middle class and attending Harvard, Lamar, a former associate editor at Time, had a foot in two worlds and feared he ``was terminally ambivalent.'' That ambivalence, as evident in this captivating memoir, seems rooted in Lamar's relationship with his domineering, abusive father. It's 1988 and Lamar, who hasn't heard from his father in five years, receives a phone call from an investigator looking into his father's business dealings. Jake, Sr., who became one of the highest ranking black officials in New York government during the Lindsay years, was determined that his son attend Harvard and become a lawyer. (When the acceptance letter arrived, Lamar's father ``whooped triumphantly. `We did it! We got into Harvard!' '') A workaholic and philanderer who would disappear for days at a time, Lamar, Sr., was also insanely jealous of his wife, bullying and smacking her around in front of the children: she eventually left their Bronx home and was hospitalized for depression. Experiencing hard times and bankruptcy, the elder Lamar saddled his son with a $25,000 debt to Harvard (his other children were left to fend for themselves), didn't attend the 1983 graduation, and refused to return his son's calls—whether out of jealousy or anger over his son's career choice is unclear. His progressively deteriorating personality led his son to feel that ``Every success I achieved was a measure of revenge.'' When the two briefly reunited in 1988, the father, though proud of seeing his son's name in Time, asked not one question about his life, job, or well-being. Crediting his father for his drive and determination despite the damage done, Lamar notes that ``He did the best he could.'' Painful and illuminating, and a far more perceptive look at the black bourgeois experience than Stephen L. Carter's Reflections Of An Affirmative Action Baby (p. 902).

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-69191-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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