Well written, though without the broader appeal of, say, Rick Atkinson or Richard Overy; a minor but interesting take on a...

THROUGH A LONG ABSENCE

WORDS FROM MY FATHER'S WARS

An American combat doctor’s memories of war, as filtered through his novelist daughter (The Art of Absence, 2011, etc.).

From an Italian immigrant family, Army Cpt. Bart Passanante found himself “aimed in the opposite direction” of his parents’ passage earlier in the century, bound as a military doctor to the war theaters of Africa, Italy, and eventually France and Germany. Armed with a trove of letters—more than 1,365 pages—from Bart to her mother, Bertie, written “almost daily in an attempt to span the jagged cleft the war had sliced into their marriage,” the latter-day Passanante explores her father’s recollection of events and retraces his steps on some parts of the journey (“When I first read Bart’s description of his days in the boxcar to Algeria, I had no doubts that I, too, wanted to travel there”). The author takes clear pleasure in her father’s mastery of English, overcoming the linguistic gulf by which immigrants are easily sorted into the category of “Other,” and she has a good eye for the telling detail and for when to quote directly and when to paraphrase. Her father tends to understatement, but sometimes he lets slip just how dangerous his situation is, as when he is preparing to board the landing craft for the invasion of France on D-Day: “Somehow, I’ve become fatalistic about the whole thing,” he writes. “I’m not as scared as I thought I was going to be.” Though the daughter’s commentary is less immediate, there are some fine moments, too, such as her meeting a Frenchwoman who, wounded in crossfire, may have been treated by Dr. Passanante decades earlier. As she writes after their tender encounter, “in the way that I missed my father in the months before he died…when his mind had already been spirited away by Alzheimer’s disease, I missed her already.”

Well written, though without the broader appeal of, say, Rick Atkinson or Richard Overy; a minor but interesting take on a major conflict.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8142-5424-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Mad Creek/Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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