Katz, a much-published writer of mystery novels and nonfiction (Virtuous Reality, 1997, etc.), prematurely assays the genre of spiritual autobiography. In the spring of 1997, the author purchased a mountain cabin in the upstate New York town of Cambridge and lived there for six months. His purpose was, in the relative solitude of rural New York state, to uncover new goals and meanings for his life, which had become stultifyingly routine in his (unspecified) suburban New Jersey town. An understanding wife and daughter consent to the temporary separation, though the three remain in close touch throughout by phone. The spiritual guide for this mountain sojourn is Thomas Merton, who supplies, in Katz’s interpretations, a sometimes sad, middle-aged wisdom and with whom the author carries on imaginary conversations. (Katz’s original intention had been to write a Merton biography.) Merton’s counsel, to seek the spiritual in life’s small everyday details, informs these pages, which counterpose accounts of cabin renovation, mouse removal, and well-digging with autobiographical reflections on childhood, family, career, friendship, and solitude. Katz is at his wry and winsome best on the material side of rural life, such as the critical home services provided by “big men in big trucks,” or learning to turn on the new well. But both Merton and the reader might wonder what constitutes the oft-cited spirituality of these reflections. Katz offers several definitions of the spiritual life—human-relatedness, happiness, self-discovery, openness to change—that seem more new-age than anything a Trappist monk might recognize, and that never wholly solidify. Accordingly, the authorial self that emerges as having attained to spiritual life is unfocused, awkwardly striding the never-resolved contradictions between responsibility and freedom, familial love and self-love, humility and self-praise. This suburbanite author’s self-deflecting appreciations of rural life appeal, but his spiritual ruminations should have been allowed quietly to mature a few years before finding their way to print. (First printing of 35,000)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-45678-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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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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