A readable treatment of a scholarly subject.



A short critique of the letters between the famous James brothers provides an engaging footnote on the relationship and occasional rivalry between two of the finest minds of modern times.

Since academic writing is so often impenetrable, and since philosopher William admitted to being “baffled” by his novelist brother’s writing, one might fear that a study of the siblings from a university press might prove tough sledding. However, this analysis by Hallman (In Utopia, 2010) has a conversational tone that avoids cant. There’s an intimacy here as the brothers criticize each other’s work, engage in gossip and discuss their bowel problems: “Special, and playful attention was reserved for all manner of digestive failure,” as “Henry’s bowels were a perfect training ground for practicing elegant prose that described inelegant events.” Though William was barely a year older than Henry, his “letters often strike a parental tone” toward his younger brother, who “expressed disappointment that their mutual influence did not result in mutual appreciation.” Part of the tension was likely the differing arcs of their careers and influence; while William “inched his way into an academic career, he had watched as his younger brother jetted straight into the heart of the world’s literary elite.” Rather than resolving mysteries such as the sexuality of lifelong bachelor Henry, who “had better relationships with women in his fiction than in real life,” Hallman resists the conclusions to which others have jumped, while also showing that the relationship between the two brothers was closer, and their work more intertwined, than some have suggested. “I believe there exists no other epistolary commingling of minds as complete between figures that have each proven so influential,” writes Hallman.

A readable treatment of a scholarly subject.

Pub Date: March 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60938-151-6

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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