Reidel’s two decades of scholarship fleshes out the details in the life of this enigmatic 20th-century writer and artist....

VANISHED ACT

THE LIFE AND ART OF WELDON KEES

Long overdue biography of an important America poet.

As independent scholar Reidel notes, Weldon Kees (1914–55) has been largely ignored by academia, although the “dark beauty” of his often nihilistic verse has in recent years won him minor cult status. He wasn’t exactly neglected in his day, publishing more than 40 short stories in the best mid–20th-century literary journals. Yet Kees never achieved the celebrity of other members of his generation, such as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. He was ambivalent, expressing a desire to attain critical success as a writer without the attendant burden of fame. To that end, he arrived in New York in 1942, avoiding the draft, most likely, due to “defects above the neck.” Unfortunate timing, Reidel suggests, may also have played a role in keeping Kees in the minor leagues. His “light novel about campus life in the Middle West,” as an editor at Knopf put it, happened to cross the editor’s desk the day after Pearl Harbor. Following its rejection, Kees concentrated his creative writing almost exclusively on poetry. An accomplished polymath, in the last decade of his life he also worked as a book reviewer and cultural critic, a jazz musician and songwriter, an abstract expressionist painter, photographer, and experimental filmmaker. Yet the level of success he longed for eluded him in all these endeavors, and he died, a presumed suicide, at the age of 41. Subsequently, he was almost universally excluded from the academic literary canon, and his work seemed destined for what Nabokov termed the “Lethean Library” of obscurity. But enthusiastic champions like his biographer have determined to alter that river’s course. Reidel has also edited Kees’s as-yet-unpublished satirical novel, Fall Quarter, and is the editor of a Kees Web site.

Reidel’s two decades of scholarship fleshes out the details in the life of this enigmatic 20th-century writer and artist. (33 photos)

Pub Date: June 16, 2003

ISBN: 0-8032-3951-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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