A charmingly eccentric but meandering autobiography.

THE WHITE TORNADO

An engineer recounts his many professional pursuits and philosophical peregrinations in this debut memoir. 

Growing up in Britain, Quinn showed an early interest in mechanics. He loved working on engines with his father, first drove a vehicle when he was 12 years old, and enthusiastically received a motorcycle on his 16th birthday. He graduated from Erith Technical School in 1960 when he was 17, and would eventually become a successful engineer and design the Panavia Tornado engine—hence his nickname, “The White Tornado.” Even his hobbies seemed inspired by his mechanical bent—he was a motorsport competitor for 13 years and a hang glider for 2. But Quinn was also an avid Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiast, and for years belonged to an amateur club that performed their works. The author’s remembrance is an unusually impersonal one—the bulk of it is devoted to a discussion of his engineering projects conveyed in forbiddingly technical language likely to confuse all but trained professionals in his field. Quinn explains his views on a wide range of topics—memory, evolution, Brexit, nuclear disarmament—and includes a proposal for a new British constitution as well as suggestions he made to the Olympic Games Organization. He also supplies a philosophical manifesto of his humanist ideals, which boil down to a commitment to secular rationality. The book can be delightfully quirky—at one point, he guilelessly asks the reader, “Incidentally, have you ever worked out how quick the reactions of pigeons and other formation flying birds are?” But he has remarkably little to say about his personal life; for example, his wife of over 40 years is mentioned in passing, but he presents readers with the square root of three to 5,010 digits (it goes on for pages). Apparently a portent of what’s to come, Quinn uses his curriculum vitae as the introductory chapter. The author is an impressively intelligent man, but this recollection reads like a private record designed for his own perusal.

A charmingly eccentric but meandering autobiography. 

Pub Date: April 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5434-8970-5

Page Count: 282

Publisher: XlibrisUK

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 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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