A searching, occasionally profound collection/memoir.



A United Nations staffer and novelist meditates on the question of “how…the life we live relate[s] to lives we might have lived or ought to have lived.”

When Browner (Everything Happens Today, 2011, etc.) turned 50, “thoughts of the road not taken” began to weigh on his mind. He had lived a bohemian lifestyle and committed himself to pursuing literary greatness throughout most of his 20s. But as he neared 30, he found himself drifting into what became a successful career as an international civil servant. In this collection of seven essays, Browner takes a critical look at his existential malaise as well as the motivations and choices that have defined his life. He examines the romanticism and self-involvement that governed his youthful thinking and caused him to scorn what Roger Shattuck called “recognized channels of accomplishment.” A strong but unacknowledged need for the familial tranquility the author did not have in childhood guided him toward a more conventional life as a husband, father, and provider. Writing became a secondary pursuit, but its presence in his life and the unlived possibilities it seemed to suggest haunted him. Literarily informed and philosophically engaged, Browner’s essays are infused with a rueful ambivalence as well as an all-too-human longing for possible pasts and futures. Yet in no way does he regret his choices. Maturity has allowed the author to see that at any given point, “there is not one future ahead of us, but multiple futures.” Creating alternate storylines for our lives is really about “creating a universe that will allow us to be our best selves.” Since choices have consequences, finding happiness means accepting those consequences as part of a process of personal growth. As for the conflicts that arise as we distinguish between what we need and what we desire and then prioritize them, they are what ultimately “give the game its tension” and make life meaningful.

A searching, occasionally profound collection/memoir.

Pub Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227569-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper Wave

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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 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...


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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