Pieces that reveal a fine mind, a creative imagination and, sometimes, an idiosyncratic notion of fact.

ORAL PLEASURE

KOSINSKI AS STORYTELLER

A collection of interviews, speeches and essays by the late author, whose literary reputation plummeted after a 1982 article in the Village Voice accused him of plagiarism and employing ghostwriters.

Kosinski (1933–1991) won the National Book Award for his 1968 novel Steps, and before his 1982 plummet, he seemed to be everywhere, especially in magazines and on TV (numerous appearances with Johnny Carson). His widow (now also deceased) assembled these pieces, often transcribing recordings she’d made of his appearances. Neither Kosinski nor his editors (including Lupack) makes much of a defense for him; his editor relies on the frail argument that “the underlying truth” of his stories trumps factual accuracy. “Most of the charges were unproven,” says the editor, neglecting to mention which ones were. The editor has arranged the pieces in large categories (“The Practice of Fiction,” “On the Holocaust” and so on) and generally adheres to chronology within categories. So we hear Kosinski in a 1982 radio interview describing his boyhood in Poland, a boyhood that sounds a lot like the boy’s in The Painted Bird. Kosinski had the capacity to say arresting things. In a 1973 letter to his publisher, he mentions how “the imagination creates molds into which experience can fit.” He also wrote that a writer’s function is to be a “detonator” and that language is “the translation of man’s original weapons.” Unsurprisingly, there is some repetition. Twice he mentions that the writer’s task is to pause and reflect, and he repeatedly blasts TV for its numbing effects on the American mind. He also wishes that Jews would think more of the future, less of the Holocaust.

Pieces that reveal a fine mind, a creative imagination and, sometimes, an idiosyncratic notion of fact.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2033-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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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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