Graceful meditations on love, loneliness, and the magic of words.

BETWIXT-AND-BETWEEN

ESSAYS ON THE WRITING LIFE

A poet and essayist likens writing to witchcraft, love, and “the craft of getting someone to love me.”

As a teacher, Boully (Creative Writing and Literature/Columbia Coll. Chicago; of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures, 2012, etc.) was visited by a textbook representative who offered her many books to help teach her students the craft of poetry or nonfiction writing. Horrified, she recalled the exercises she had encountered as an undergraduate, which resembled “therapy: confronting an experience with the goal of moving beyond it to free oneself from buried trauma.” For Boully, the process is far different, rooted in a philosophical journey for meaning, sincerity, and, not least, love. “I expect my students to essay fiercely and obsessively,” she writes. In her own work, an essay “may begin with a suspicion. I follow that suspicion until it gives me something I might have been searching for.” The pieces in this captivating collection—versions of which were previously published in literary journals—reflect Boully’s discomfort with genre: some are prose poems, some collages of fragments, bits of “veiled memoir,” and evocative digressions. “It seems to me,” she writes ruefully, “that the inability to accept a mixed piece of writing is akin to literary discrimination.” The author’s prose is reminiscent of Lydia Davis’—spare, elliptical, unexpected—and sometimes, in her rhythmic cadences, of Gertrude Stein’s. In the literary world, Boully confesses, her genre-bending often causes consternation. “I may look like an essay, but I don’t act like one,” she writes. “I may look like prose, but I don’t speak like it.” She may look like a poet, too, or a fiction writer: “The need to write fictions,” she offers, “arises from the desire to say one thing and mean another.

Graceful meditations on love, loneliness, and the magic of words.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56689-510-1

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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