Intellectually stimulating but self-aggrandizing—a portrait of the artist in portraits of other artists.

RESURRECTIONS

AUTHORS, HEROES--AND A SPY

An experimental memoir told in a series of biographical sketches of the author’s friends and colleagues.

In his latest book, Meyers (Robert Lowell in Love, 2016, etc.) attempts to revive appreciation for 14 underrecognized writers, artists, and scholars. Composed of short profiles on authors like Phillip Knightley and Paul Theroux, the book provides an insider’s view of their personal and professional lives. Drawn from “learned gatherings” and the author’s lengthy correspondence with his subjects, the narrative consists of intriguing, brief portraits, rendering each into “a colorful legend among the colorless academic drudges” (about critic Donald Greene). In the first section, Meyers focuses on his personal acquaintances, and the second features essays on five inspirational men he wishes he could have met—e.g., scholar and Russian spy Anthony Blunt. Meyers appears prominently throughout his book; while the texts are meant to honor these artists and exalt their histories and bibliographies, they transform into recurring reflections of Meyers and what his subjects think of him. It’s a brilliant way for a biographer to finally write about himself, although the author frequently revels in his own praise. The all-male focus feels old-fashioned, as does the author’s “interest in masculine writers” and love of gossip (many profiles recount affairs and other sordid morsels). Meyers is frequently “eager to win his [subject’s] respect,” and he seeks relationships based on a mutual intellectual appreciation. He mentions his search for an “ideal father figure” throughout the book, but he rarely moves past his own reflection. On Hugh Gordon Porteus, Meyers explains Porteus “was delighted to be rediscovered by me.” Later, the author recounts his “treasured” friendship with James Salter through dinner-party anecdotes and snippets of their storied intellectual discourse. He circles around self-affirming details like how “Jim inscribed twenty-six various editions of his books for [him]” and even shares “the three best” dedications (inscribed in Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime: “To Jeffrey. Represents, I think, the apogee”).

Intellectually stimulating but self-aggrandizing—a portrait of the artist in portraits of other artists.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8139-4168-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Virginia

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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