Entertaining and brimming with wonder.

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THE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF HARRY HOUDINI

Unlocking the doors to the legendary performer’s world of magic.

Noting that there are more than 500 books about Ehrich Weiss, aka Harry Houdini (1874-1926), MLB.com national columnist Posnanski (The Secret of Golf: The Story of Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, 2016, etc.) still delivers a jaunty and infectious biography of the famous magician and his impact on magic and popular culture. The author relates his discussions with magicians who have emulated or criticized Houdini’s magic as well as the “truest believer[s]” who have studied and written about him for years. As a young boy, writes Posnanski, “locks spoke to Houdini, and Houdini understood.” Though he said he was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, he was actually born in Budapest. This lie, discovered Posnanski, is a key to understanding how Houdini achieved his mythic status. “[Houdini] believed that magic was about the performer more than the performance,” writes the author, “and the bigger, gaudier, more dangerous, more thrilling, the better.” Posnanski’s Houdini is a consummate liar and a genius at self-promotion. He hired ghost writer H.P Lovecraft to “tell exaggerated tales about him or write short stories under the Houdini name” and planted self-aggrandizing stories about himself in the local newspapers of the towns where he performed. Posnanski is excellent at describing Houdini’s greatest escapes, from the famous Mirror Cuffs to straitjackets. The author chronicles his visit to David Copperfield’s private museum; the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he viewed the rare Houdini film, The Grim Game; and the Academy of Magical Arts’ exclusive Magic Castle, where he finally got to meet Patrick Culliton, author of the rare and coveted Houdini: The Key. Houdini was good as a magician, Posnanski learns—he created the popular needles-in- the-mouth trick and made an elephant disappear—but he was, above all, a remarkable performer. Spoiler alert: The author does not reveal any Houdini secrets.

Entertaining and brimming with wonder.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3723-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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