A uniquely talented writer and performer offers up an unexpectedly uncommon approach to autobiographical writing.

LITTLE WEIRDS

Tough times spur a popular stand-up comedian and actor to dive deep into her own inimitable psyche.

In Slate’s (Marcel the Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me, 2011) intriguing inner world, raindrops are “wet water bloops” that fall unexpectedly from the sky, and brassieres are “cotton cup bags” that respectable ladies are obliged to don before heading out to dinner. The use of deconstructed language allows the author to move beyond the banal and replace it with something that more closely approximates her singular experience of being alive. Whether joyous or sad, Slate’s personal journey hasn’t always been lighthearted. Indeed, the author feels moved to describe herself as “dying” on multiple occasions throughout her life. She is concerned with many other things, as well, including the nature of lovelorn ghosts and the ethereal goodness of dogs. Underneath the gauzy, shimmering scaffolding, however, is an all-too-universal story about heartbreak, depression, and a failed marriage: “One man was gone from my life just about the time that another man pig-snorted his way into the presidency….I didn’t know how or why to give myself small pleasures.” Through it all, she has found solace in a circle of good friends and the redemptive powers of a neat house and an incredible garden. Slate seems to fit so comfortably inside the poetic realms of her impressive imagination that she has no need to abandon them, not even when she is rebuking the pernicious ugliness of male patriarchy, another element that has heavily impacted her life. In one particularly powerful interlude, the author achieves biblical grandeur, envisioning herself ripping out the ancient evil root and stem. “I take one last good look at that poison pod and I just go ahead and fling it,” she writes. “I fling that pod back into the gloomy section of outer space that is for bad gods with sickly and sour spirits.”

A uniquely talented writer and performer offers up an unexpectedly uncommon approach to autobiographical writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48534-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

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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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