The musings of one hot mess.

THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SKIRT

A fretful, cross-dressing underachiever recaps a lifetime of eccentricities.

At age 40, Goulian has had a busy life garnering a law degree and shuffling through a variety of odd jobs, though he admits to having little to show for it other than an uncanny sense of worldliness. His flashy chronicle begins in La Jolla, Calif., where his teen years consisted of a panicked obsession with an inguinal hernia, bowlegs, pristine teeth and, incredibly, a nose job at 15. Belly shirts, makeup and high heels became his typical dress code, a trait that “came naturally” to him but exasperated his parents and especially his grandfather, political philosopher Sidney Hook. But his androgyny became less of a worry for his family when compared with his personal defeatist philosophy (“I own nothing, and save nothing, and accomplish nothing tangible, and have no permanent hold on life whatsoever”). This resistance to constancy triggered a sudden disinterest in everything from soccer to the abandonment of his law career after attending Columbia University. Goulian writes of the comforting routine he discovered in almost a decade spent bodybuilding, but a stint at the New York Review of Books (to help defray the cost of purchasing a stuffed-animal collection) and clerking for a federal judge eventually lost their allure primarily because he “couldn’t wear the clothes” required of a professional job. A curiously insistent heterosexual, the author’s sassy, outspoken narrative gets kudos for its droll frankness, but it kicks and screams too much trying to be controversial. It’s a rambling story fueled by the author’s graphically described, awkward sexual foibles and misunderstood motivations. Flamboyant and creative? Definitely. But in a culture where few things are sacred, will anyone take notice?

The musings of one hot mess.

Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6811-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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 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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