A sometimes intriguing but overwritten slice of American life.


An exhaustive fictionalized account of the author’s life and American culture in the mid-20th century.

In what she calls “a novelized memoir,” McMahon (Looking for Love in All the Wrong and Right Places, 2012, etc.) spares few details in recounting her life from her childhood in Brooklyn to the present day, via her alter ego Annie Rosenberg. From her life in her 20s among artsy friends in Greenwich Village, to a disastrous marriage (and eventual remarriage) to a Manhattan firefighter, to her struggles with alcoholism and days meditating with Indian guru Baba Muktananda at a Catskills ashram, the author delivers well-researched tales of her and her friends’ lives. Although there are compelling stories within this vast book, including her experiences as an insider in the 1950s record industry, the moments of interest often get lost amidst extraneous information. McMahon dwells at length on the backgrounds of minor characters and strings along subplots for multiple chapters before abruptly dropping them. There’s so much going on within the book’s sprawling narrative that many characters and plotlines seem underdeveloped. The book’s aim to present a complete picture of its era sometimes makes it feel like a history textbook: “The 1950s, a decade of conformity, began to change. Gene Kelly and America were singing in the rain, and Eisenhower was President.” Similarly, Annie and her compatriots’ dialogue sometimes tends more toward exposition than realistic conversation; when Annie runs into an old friend in Greenwich Village, the friend exclaims: “Hell, it’s great downtown, friendly, non-judgmental, good for finding out about life and about how to live on your own.” Overall, the novel is a pleasant read, but isn’t consistently engaging.

A sometimes intriguing but overwritten slice of American life.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477568842

Page Count: 476

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2013

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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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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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