A book seething with the passion and sense of outrage behind the Black Lives Matter movement that also traces specific roots...

WRITING TO SAVE A LIFE

THE LOUIS TILL FILE

The present illuminates the past—but can’t provide resolution—in this generation-spanning meditation on injustice.

Wideman (God’s Gym, 2005, etc.) initially conducted his research to inform some fiction focusing on Emmitt Till, the 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped and murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. “Though today Emmett Till is generally viewed as a civil rights martyr,” writes the renowned author, “the shabby trial that exonerated his killers, and the crucial role played by Till’s father in the trial have largely disappeared from the public’s imagination.” It is the life and death of father Louis Till that obsesses Wideman, in a manner that blurs the distinction between fiction and nonfiction. During World War II, Louis was executed for rape and murder in Italy, a case based on another black soldier’s turning informant to escape prosecution and on shaky testimony from Italian women. Even after Emmitt’s accused murderers were acquitted, there had been the opportunity to try them on the charge of kidnapping, until a supposedly confidential file on the hanging of Louis became public knowledge: “With this information about Emmitt Till’s father in hand, the Mississippi grand jury declined to indict…for kidnapping.” There are many layers of meaning in this book, especially regarding the identification of Wideman with Emmitt, both of them 14 when the author saw a photo of the dead boy’s battered face, and the narrative expands into a meditation on black fathers and sons, the divide and the bonds, the genetic inheritance within a racist society. The author also explores the relationship between truth and fiction, since he believes the case against Louis can be read as fiction, and he composes his own fictions to counter it. He suggests that Louis was mainly guilty “of being the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time” while admitting that he has no more proof than military officials did.

A book seething with the passion and sense of outrage behind the Black Lives Matter movement that also traces specific roots of the movement’s genealogy.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4728-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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