The swamplands of southern Michigan receive a surprise visit from a blogging Manhattan journalist and his feisty elderly father.

Early on, Sellers (Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, 2007) admits to a distinct abhorrence for “unnecessarily daunting” outdoor activities. Leaving the pleasurable confines of his home meant exposing himself to treacherous environs teeming with bugs, the horror of sharks and quicksand and “the constant menace of ickiness.” Also low on his to-do list was spending time with his quirky, estranged father Mark, a stuttering, antisocial former Lutheran pastor turned herpetologist who drove his long-suffering wife to divorce him after 19 years). In a farfetched effort to somehow rekindle a father-son bond, Sellers voluntarily accompanied his 70-year-old dad on his yearly three-day excursion to the Michigan swamps [25] in search of the “endangered copperbelly water snake.” It would be the longest amount of time they’d spent together in well over two decades, he confesses. The hundred-mile road trip into the quagmire is surprisingly rife with honest revelations for both the author, who bemoans his father’s frail appearance yet respects his “consuming passion,” and Mark, who emotionally argues the negative perceptions of snakes in popular culture and the escalating “suburbanization” of land he’d once surveyed. After their initial trip was cut short, Sellers, though recognizing his father’s physical limitations, embarked on a second swamp voyage—only this time much better prepared (less kvetching!) and at peace with his co-pilot. As the author relates memories of a bittersweet childhood, their swamp escapades reveal a deeper meaning. Throughout, Sellers tests the bounds of the relationship with honest attempts at harmonizing with a father who’d become a stranger. With the swamp trips painstakingly accomplished and this heartfelt, Hollywood-ready narrative written, the author would do well to simply hug his father and stay put indoors. An unconventional, funny and touching family adventure.


Pub Date: May 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4165-8871-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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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 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...


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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