But Fowles is preeminently, of course, one of the most accomplished English novelists of the last half-century, and this...

THE JOURNALS

VOLUME ONE: 1949-1965

The master British novelist records, in shapely prose, the struggles involved in attaining his craft, as well as the usual coming-of-age worries.

Fowles (Wormholes, 1998, etc.), the author of such lapidary novels as Daniel Martin and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, seems never to have considered an ordinary life, whatever that might be. “I cannot imagine working in a routine post,” he wrote in his mid-20s. As a young man living in the rural West Country during WWII, he learned poaching from a well-intended Home Guard commander; still earlier, he had the mouth of the Thames for his playground, which brought him the knowledge and, in a sense, the outlook of a Victorian naturalist. Torn between science and literature, Fowles quite sensibly chose to do a French degree at “Oxford the imperturbable,” though he decided while in the “silly little city” of Poitiers that he didn’t really want to go to lectures, really didn’t want to read the required texts; he really wanted to write himself: “I have the blend—the sensual flesh and the oversensitive mind,” he confided in his journal. “Some artistic good is bound to come of it.” Steeped in Kafka and Camus, Fowles wandered around Europe while collecting material and aperçus for The Magus, which took him nearly 13 years to finish. While teaching at private schools and colleges, Fowles records, he read nearly everything and let no detail go unnoticed, as when he ponders the startling people he would meet in the Greek backcountry: “A Persian-German has psychological (and ornithological) possibilities; will repay watching.” He also collected just about everything it was possible to collect, which he dismissed by observing that as long as it didn’t become obsessive or ruinous, anything was permitted. Small wonder that Fowles later characterized himself as being made up of various selves, one a poet, one a traveler, one a naturalist, one a movie buff, etc.

But Fowles is preeminently, of course, one of the most accomplished English novelists of the last half-century, and this glimpse into his education and work is a pleasure.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4431-6

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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