VACATIONLAND

TRUE STORIES FROM PAINFUL BEACHES

A memoir from a writer who doubles as a comedian.

Though Hodgman has been a bestselling author with his books of “fake facts” (That Is All, 2011, etc.) and has written weekly for the New York Times Magazine, his renown is less literary or journalistic than multimedia, in which everything pretty much cross-promotes everything else. Many fans know him mainly as a correspondent for the Daily Show, which resulted from his books, or his podcast that also builds on his demographic reach and extends it. He has perhaps been most widely seen through his Apple campaign, in which he portrayed the stodgier PC to the hipper computer devices. Having exhausted his fake facts through his earlier books, Hodgman turns to the feeling of being a white man in his 40s, a Yale graduate with a wife who has long been with him and two children he refuses to name to avoid feeding their egos. He reveals to readers, “the central conflict of my life and this book…is this: I OWN TWO SUMMER HOMES.” One is in Massachusetts, bequeathed by his family, and the other is in Maine. Little wonder that a friend once described his work as “white privilege comedy,” though the author actually came to his privilege late. He grew up in a middle-class household and scuffled through a freelancing life and a stint as a literary agent. Hodgman’s comedy is more deadpan than laugh-out-loud funny, aimed at a too-hip-to-chuckle readership for whom this might be metacomedy, in which the very notion of trying to be humorous is the big joke. The author senses an affinity with “Maine Humor,” which elicits “a kind of low inner chuckling, so dry and so deep inside you that you may not realize it is happening.” Though Hodgman explores the landscape of his area of Massachusetts, the title refers to Maine, where he struggles with critters and their waste, ordering propane, and getting along with the locals when you’re “from away.”

Very dry, with a twist.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2480-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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