The key to the memoir’s cumulative power is Walker’s narrative command; the rite of passage is rockier than most, making the...

THE WORLD IN FLAMES

A BLACK BOYHOOD IN A WHITE SUPREMACIST DOOMSDAY CULT

A memoir in which a young boy comes to terms with the religious cult that had given his family hope.

In this follow-up to the author’s Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption (2011), a debut that proved a breakthrough in terms of awards and recognition, the focus is tighter and the narrative challenge considerable, as Walker (Creative Writing/Emerson Coll.) assumes the perspective of the boy he was from ages 6 through 14, in a black family belonging to the overwhelmingly white (and segregationist) Worldwide Church of God. Its charismatic founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, had prophesied that only the anointed “chosen” would find redemption upon the Earth’s imminent destruction. Young “Jerry” would barely be 11 years old when this would happen, and he accepted the prophecy on faith, though the specifics of his religion confused his young mind. His alcoholic, epileptic father and his mother—both blind—had embraced the cult in part because they thought sight would be their reward. They also had some secrets in their pasts that their son would only learn later. As the predicted apocalypse of 1975 failed to happen and the boy matured and experienced more of the world, he lost faith in the church, as did other congregants and members of his family. He found himself torn between Armstrong’s vision of a better life to come and the streetwise testimony of Iceberg Slim and other hustlers. At a pivotal point, he writes, “my life isn’t becoming a real horror show, I’m thinking. It’s been one for a long time.” He asked his older brother, “How do you un-believe a belief?” and he learned “how the world is full of deception, how very few people can really be trusted, how it’s important that I learn to think and make decisions on my own.”

The key to the memoir’s cumulative power is Walker’s narrative command; the rite of passage is rockier than most, making the redemption well-earned.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8070-2750-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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