Take a journey to Ixtlan—by way of Swaziland—in this verbose, self-conscious narrative by the only white man to have ever become a sangoma, a traditional African healer. A former television writer and co-author of Makeba: My Story (not reviewed), Hall spent two years learning how to summon his lidlotis, the spirits of the dead who emerge to possess his body during nightly rituals. As a sangoma-in-training, Hall accumulates eight spirits, including those of a distantly related Scotsman, an American Indian, a fetus (who encourages him to have his own child), and a most incongruous 1930s ad man named Harry, who conversationally tells Hall it was he who thought of the slogan ``Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.'' Under the tutelage of senior sangomas, Hall digs for medicinal roots; reads animal bones to diagnose physical and spiritual ailments of his patients; bathes in goat blood; and divines the location of hidden objects before admiring tribespeople. Yet all is not rosy, since Hall faces grudging acceptance by the community and is perpetually plagued by foot infections arising from nocturnal barefoot dancing while under the thrall of his lidlotis. A self-described former ``casual'' Catholic, Hall continually confronts his own doubts about the legitimacy of his experiences. Is he schizophrenic, he wonders? Would anyone back home in the States believe him? Is he worthy of being a sangoma? After easily resolving these questions through a fairly insignificant encounter with a colorful troubadour, Hall undergoes his final ritual tests (which include a vomiting contest) and becomes a full-fledged traditional healer. Hall's prose drips with hackneyed phrases such as ``muscular mountains'' and ``ineffable sadness,'' and while he faithfully describes his ritual training, the details can become wearying, particularly the daily digging and grinding of sacred herbs. Readers curious about this vanishing tribal practice may find Hall's book informative, as will glossolaliacs who will appreciate his lidlotis utterances. (8 pages of b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-87477-780-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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