Although Mary Shelley’s life was fascinating, this is not the place to learn about it. The author states clearly that he is...

MARY SHELLEY

A LITERARY LIFE

Most readers know Mary as Percy Shelley’s wife and the author of Frankenstein, but many critics feel her writing deserves more attention. British scholar Williams (Romantic Poetry and Revolutionary Politics, 1989) aims to tell her story and evaluate her position in the 19th-century literary canon.

Mary was the daughter of radical William Godwin and pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (who died giving birth to her in 1797). Godwin proved a poor father, neglecting the child who worshipped him and later on marrying a woman she grew to detest. His home teemed with intellectual activity, however, and Mary grew up surrounded by London’s literary elite. Despite her sophistication, Mary was capable of losing her head, and the arrival in 1814 of the notorious atheist and radical Percy Shelley (not yet known as a poet) bowled the girl over entirely. She and her half-sister Claire Clairmont ran off to France with him, Shelley’s abandoned wife killed herself shortly after their return, and within three weeks Percy and Mary were married. This caused a scandal, and soon the three were back in Europe. There followed six years of what can only be called a hippie existence minus birth control (but with better writing). The Shelleys plus Byron and other friends traveled, schemed to improve the lot of man, and wrote great literature. The women bore children almost continually. The adventure ended when Shelley drowned, the friends dispersed, and Mary returned to England. She spent the next 30 years writing and working to build the reputation of her husband.

Although Mary Shelley’s life was fascinating, this is not the place to learn about it. The author states clearly that he is writing a literary life, and his narrative pauses frequently for a discussion of how Mary transformed a particular episode into fiction. There are extensive summaries of her work, along with speculations as to how each reflects the era, the various literary genres, or Mary’s personal crises. Although this works as literary criticism, readers purely interested in biography should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-22832-5

Page Count: 222

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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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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