A thoughtful, odd, amusing (albeit occasionally precious) fusion of memoir, career guide, and anarchist screed with built-in...

THE DOG WALKER

AN ANARCHIST'S ENCOUNTERS WITH THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE CANINE

A snarky idealist’s journey to maturity through pet care.

In his debut, Stephens fuses urban history, social theory, and personal narrative with a wry overview of the ubiquitous phenomenon of dog-walking. He argues that dog walkers represent “features of urban (and, more and more, suburban) life. Conspicuous consumption. The quaint priorities of aging Gen-Xers who have begun to hire millenials.” Stephens seems an appropriate ambassador for this archetypical slacker’s profession: a hyperrebellious Navy brat, he became a self-identified anarchist during the first Iraq war, questioning dominant narratives and enjoying shock appeal, qualities which inform the prose here. Stephens transitioned naturally into the profession following a string of radical adventures, including time with the Zapatistas in Mexico and a protest-related federal conviction. “My life,” he writes, “was a headlong dive into coupling moral outrage with punk rock irreverence.” Having moved to Washington, D.C., for its leftist punk scene (Stephens acutely portrays the city’s social striations), he found himself traipsing through the homes of governmental officials and other high achievers, spending time with their pampered pooches. The book is casually structured, with some chapters tying in the ideas of radical theorists and others providing irreverent looks at the trade, ranging from the pet care industry’s shady finances and hiring practices to the messy realities of time spent with dogs. “Yes,” he writes. “Dog walkers deal with shit…this preoccupies everyone but the dog walkers doing it.” Stephens, who retired after founding a successful dog-walking cooperative, argues that dog-walking is the ideal occupation for both avoiding the 9-to-5 grind and developing a philosophical view of the world: “Walking confers real time for asking questions, in a manner most activities do not.” He constantly examines his encounters through an anarchist lens of social consciousness, noting that the responsibility with which the wealthy entrust their dog-walkers “is highly mediated by race and class.”

A thoughtful, odd, amusing (albeit occasionally precious) fusion of memoir, career guide, and anarchist screed with built-in appeal for millennials.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61219-451-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2015

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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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