A keen assessment of one of society’s secret shames and its little-understood consequences.

CLUTTER

AN UNTIDY HISTORY

A veteran journalist explores our messy lives.

In this illuminating sociological study, Howard, a former contributing editor and columnist for the Washington Post, begins with the discovery that her mother had been living for years in a hoarder’s den. “Squalor and chaos have infiltrated every room—upstairs, downstairs, attic, basement,” she writes. “No space has been left untouched.” Howard then delves into the sordid history of clutter, looking at the intriguing case study of Homer and Langley Collyer, whose Harlem brownstone, in the 1920s and ’30s, “became a death trap of neck-high junk, including hundreds of thousands of newspapers.” In 1947, Langley was crushed under the clutter; Homer, “blind and bedridden and dependent on his brother, starved to death.” The author also explores how industrialization helped create the birth of consumer culture as well as the complex psychology of overconsumption in modern-day capitalism. Howard’s research is thorough, and the prose is clear, well written, and inviting rather than being judgmental, even if she’s exploring complex issues such as activism, entrepreneurship, and the potential impact of clutter on the future of the planet. In addition to her historical narrative and contemporary analysis, the author includes commentary from a variety of interesting characters, including New Yorker and Kirkus Prize–winning cartoonist Roz Chast, British author Matt Haig (“there is, in the current world, an excess of everything”), and even Oscar Wilde: “Have nothing in your house that is not useful or beautiful; if such a rule were followed out, you would be astonished at the amount of rubbish you would get rid of.” Like George Carlin’s infamous riff on “A Place for My Stuff,” Howard’s exploration of one dark corner of consumer culture is quick-witted and insightful—and, appropriately for the subject, refreshingly concise. The author also discusses the phenomenon of the “mild-mannered Japanese organizing guru” Marie Kondo.

A keen assessment of one of society’s secret shames and its little-understood consequences.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948742-72-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Belt Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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