ELEGY FOR IRIS

A sweet if somewhat old-fashioned memoir about a literary marriage. Bayley, author of the novel The Red Hat and a noted critic, met novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch (Jackson’s Dilemma, 1996, etc.) while he was teaching at Oxford’s St. Anthony’s College and instantly came under her sway. Though Murdoch was less quick to return his affection, she too fell in love after a delightfully disastrous date in which a well-advertised restaurant served them “nasty” food and Murdoch herself fell down some stairs on her way to the dance floor; these mishaps unearthed the couple’s deepest connection: a fine sense of humor, indeed, their joy in private jokes and laughs. In her time, Murdoch was a woman of unconventional intelligence and independence’she had a long string of lovers, did not want children, had an almost slovenly disregard for her appearance, and was in no hurry to get married, though she never seems to have doubted that Bayley should be the groom. Using flashbacks, Bayley lightens his accounts of Murdoch’s present disappearance into Alzheimer’s disease with happier memories of their long, comfortable life together, a life filled with trips, summer swims, and pleasure in books. Bayley clearly adores and admires his celebrated wife, and his care of her illness is a model of devotion. This unalloyed affection is refreshingly sweet, but too often his descriptions of Murdoch edge over into the saccharine—for him she is “Christ-like”—and the result is an unusual lack of insight into her abilities. Would the woman who never took any interest in children really have “looked after [her own child] better and more conscientiously than most mothers, and no doubt would have brought it up better, too”? Nonetheless, this seems an appropriate error for a loving husband to make, and the book’s intimate tone will surely please both his fans and hers. (6 b&w photos, not seen) (First serial to the New Yorker)

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19864-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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