Though the author at times gives the impression that she’s talking to herself, overall this reads like a series of postcard...

NOTES FROM A ROMAN TERRACE

Marble (Notes from an Italian Garden, 2001) casts a sophisticated eye over episodes of her 40-year residence in the heart of old Rome.

Experienced from both street level and the terrace of her 16th-century apartment on the Piazza Borghese, her impressions possess a pleasing durability, evidence that ancient Roman social, political, and family arrangements—bureaucratic patronage, a tradition of gregariousness, and a penchant for the sensual—still pertain. You can practically hear the silk rustle in Marble’s charming, elegant prose, even when her stories are weightless and fail to stick in any memorable fashion. Little unites these observations other than their author, who goes on about the idiosyncrasies of her maid, her husband’s bad luck when it comes to bicycles (they’re always being stolen), the seagulls that trouble her equanimity, the spats with neighbors and doormen, the click of a mason's hammer, the return of the swifts. Marble takes umbrage at the tawdriness and ubiquity of Italian television and despairs over the traffic. “The street of Rome, built for walking and small chariots, have been taken over by an army of vehicles,” she writes. Perhaps understandably, she often sounds distracted, as if she would rather be thinking about something else. Gardening, for instance: when Marble turns to that topic, though it too tends to be seen in soft focus, she finally displays some passion and a few firm opinions. She appreciates “the trend towards a more personal, less constrained garden style,” she gives sharp reports of gardens in Palmero and the Lepanti Mountains, and she has valuable advice when it comes to the art of the terrace garden.

Though the author at times gives the impression that she’s talking to herself, overall this reads like a series of postcard invocations to Rome: beautiful, intimate, friendly, and welcoming to the gardener.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-60477-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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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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