A fine introduction to the prose of a modern master.

COLLECTED PROSE

Elegant musings, jottings, appreciations, memoirs, and reviews by the late renowned poet.

Merrill (1926–95) gained recognition for many things: as a poet with a flair for intellectually charged wordplay, à la Wallace Stevens; as a critic with an appreciation for the hard work of creation as much as for “the whole level of entertainment in art”; as a gay aesthete whose frankness was a source of embarrassment for some members of his well-heeled family (of Merrill Lynch fame). The present volume—edited by poets McClatchy and Yenser, who teamed up for Merrill’s Collected Poems (2001)—highlights all those facets. In the last matter, it reprints Merrill’s memoir A Different Person (1993), which charts his growth from somewhat frivolous youth to somewhat more tempered analysand, all against a Roman backdrop. As for the first two, the volume gathers a few dozen interviews, articles, essays, and forewords that speak to Merrill’s interests and methods. One, for instance, is the use of an unlikely tool for composition: “Drugs have worked for some, meditation for others; in my own case it was something as apparently flimsy as the Ouija board.” (Elsewhere, Merrill recalls having contacted the soul of an engineer “dead of cholera in Cairo” who had recently bumped into Goethe.) Merrill defends his somewhat formal approach to poetry as seemly deference to tradition. He remarks, “With fewer and fewer people, even bright ones, who know what traditions are, my old-fashioned kind of poem may soon be mistaken for something much newer than it is, and read with appropriate cries of delight.” At another point, he professes a suspicion for poetic grandiosity, noting, “I’m on the side of careful consideration.” Even so, he gets off some nicely wild lines, particularly in his travel journals, as when he writes of a South American trip, “The river steamer blisters and moans. The banks suck their gums endlessly as it shudders upstream.”

A fine introduction to the prose of a modern master.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-41136-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2004

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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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