Occasionally meandering, but possessing a quiet authority and subtle emotional power.

ALL WILL BE WELL

A MEMOIR

A gloomy memoir of growing up amid harsh conditions in rural Ireland.

Born in 1934, novelist McGahern (By the Lake, 2002, etc.) traces his childhood in and around Leitrim, a central lake town at the base of the Iron Mountains where the soil is extremely poor and life rather grim and joyless. Early on, he and his three sisters (more siblings arrived later) lived with their paternal grandmother and mother in Ballinamore, while their father, a former IRA member now serving as a sergeant in the army, was stationed at the barracks 20 miles away in Cootehall. Young Sean, as the boy was known, clung to his gentle mother, Sue, a schoolteacher. Although she never beat her children, she couldn’t protect them from the occasional explosive brutality of their willful, handsome father or the routine canings received at the hands of schoolmistresses. At the base of the violence tolerated by this deeply Catholic society, asserts McGahern, “was sexual sickness and frustration”: Sex was deemed unclean, and the division between body and soul firmly demarcated. After their mother died of cancer, ten-year-old Sean and his siblings lived at the whim of their coldly calculating father. The children drew together for survival, scrambling to educate themselves and then get away from home. Sean was accepted at a teachers’ training college in Dublin closely associated with the Church, which assured him of a good job at a time when many Irish people were forced to find employment in Britain or abroad. His father gradually declined in mental and physical health just as Sean’s literary star was rising; his first novel, The Barracks, won the AE Memorial Award in 1963. After he married, the author moved back to Leitrim, mostly as a gesture toward the memory of his beloved mother.

Occasionally meandering, but possessing a quiet authority and subtle emotional power.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-4496-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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