A small fortune could be made by bottling this story and selling it as an antidote to self-pity. Frey will have to settle...

MY FRIEND LEONARD

A story of post-rehab, post-prison that’s about as comforting as a sawn-off shotgun with a dark angel in attendance.

“I have spent twenty-three years destroying myself and everything and everyone around me and I don’t want to live that way anymore,” writes Frey (A Million Little Pieces, 2003). He isn’t blowing smoke. We meet him, an alcoholic and a drug addict, just as he’s finishing a little stint in prison. He has survived, and that is what he intends to keep on doing, though his personal Furies—fortified wine and crack—rarely give him a moment’s peace, and his delicate-as-porcelain love, Lilly, hanged herself in despair just hours before his release (she, too, was trying to simply survive, living in a half-way house: “She wanted to go to college . . . she had seven books, all textbooks,” Frey writes, tearing your heart out). With a fortitude that is a wonder to behold, Frey maintains his sobriety, taking menial jobs because he hasn’t exactly got a sparkling resume. He also has a friend in Leonard, his mobster guardian, who gets Frey hooked up with some better paying gigs (illegal and thus another problem) and who’s always there to steer Frey clear of intoxicants and toward the simple pleasures, like good food and Cuban cigars. Frey works at longer-term commitments, but the hurt of Lilly’s loss keeps him hesitant. He focuses instead on writing—who’d have thought? But the fruits are here to witness: a fine, grim tale, full of smarting immediacy, with stylistic tics—repetitions, an aversion to commas, run-ons—that skip close to the irritating but lend a musicality and remind the reader to pay attention: “I finish and I take a deep breath it has been a long night I’m worried about Lilly.” The anguish is only beginning.

A small fortune could be made by bottling this story and selling it as an antidote to self-pity. Frey will have to settle for the small fortune it will make in big sales.

Pub Date: June 16, 2005

ISBN: 1-57322-315-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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