A lovely, heartening piece of work.

I’M LOOKING THROUGH YOU

GROWING UP HAUNTED: A MEMOIR

Growing up in a haunted house while inhabiting the wrong body.

Back then, Jennifer was James, living with his family in a dilapidated Victorian mansion on Philadelphia’s Main Line. While Boylan’s first memoir (She’s Not There, 2003) took place mostly in her head or dealt with the physiological process of transformation, here she turns outward to provide the backdrop for James’s desire to change gender. The house was lousy with ghosts: disembodied footsteps, a sentient blue fog, a woman with blond hair and white nightgown, reflected in a mirror. Also in residence were the author’s pleasing parents and a freewheeling sister; an array of fairly kooky relatives floated in and out. James had a secret. He, too, was haunted. A female spirit lived in his body: hopeful, wraithlike, translucent. Doubtless, this was vexing, but Boylan takes it as an occasion to provide much polished humor, some of it dark, most of it simply sparkling. Cross-dressing provides gloriously colorful moments. “Reading Thomas Mann’s Tonio Kröger in German while wearing Playtex products,” James had to hastily change clothes when he heard his sister heading toward his room. One time his father nearly caught him in the attic trying on his sister’s wedding dress: “Did he know, as he stood there atop his ladder, that his son was gathered in a baroque clump behind an army trunk in the corner?” As James wrestles with his conundrum, Boylan surrounds him with an appealing cast of friends and family. She draws a particularly striking portrait of her mischievous grandmother. Love abounds, the kind that must have helped James make his move despite the fact that he’d married and fathered children. Boylan’s vivid atmosphere and characterizations and use of dramatic irony and comic relief give this memoir a bright, shimmering force.

A lovely, heartening piece of work.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2174-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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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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