There’s always something afoot in these pages, but the atmosphere bespeaks sweet torpor as Greene pursues an infusion of...

FRENCH SPIRITS

A HOUSE, A VILLAGE, AND A LOVE AFFAIR IN BURGUNDY

The story of yet another French country house and its travails in the hands of its new, non-French owners, this time told in a relaxed, un-selfconscious, and observant fashion by poet Greene (American Spirituals, not reviewed).

In the small Burgundian village of Rogny in France’s Puisaye, still a raw and wild landscape, Greene and his wife purchase the remains of a presbytery and set about putting it back in shape. This is to be a weekend place—they live in Paris and have day jobs, Greene’s taking him back to the US every autumn—so they can’t get too precious about the details of getting the house up to speed, nor so enrapt as to become tedious. They display just enough exasperation to show that they’re thoroughly familiar with the distinctively French sense of time. Greene gets to know his neighbors as humans rather than sideshow curiosities, charismatics and nuisances together: “farmers, woodsmen, artisans, widows, thieves, and drunks,” the last category including the alcoholic Coco, “the tutelary spirit of the presbytery.” Running through the story are the happenings—enough of them disagreeable to create a convincing sense of reality—that make up a life: big occasions, like Greene’s and Mary’s wedding or his mother’s arrival to live with them; smaller ones, like their maneuverings with a neighboring marquis to acquire a prayer path of ancient hornbeams bordering their property, or the purchase of furniture of suspicious provenance. Greene is also attentive to the land, discerning its seasonal moods, mooching along its river, informing himself about its wildlife, even adopting and nursing a robin-like bird he names Charles, which promisingly returns to the wild.

There’s always something afoot in these pages, but the atmosphere bespeaks sweet torpor as Greene pursues an infusion of pleasure, a modest slice of history, an honest sense of place.

Pub Date: March 13, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-018820-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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