BALCONY VIEW

A 9/11 DIARY

An intimate memoir of love and loss in the shadow of 9/11.

On September 11, 2001, art historian Frey (Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life, 1995) and her husband, novelist Ronald Sukenick, lived in Battery Park City, where, from their 26th-floor apartment across from the World Trade Center, they witnessed that day’s terrorist attacks. This book is Frey’s diary-style account of the events of 9/11 and the six months that followed, which she endured while caring for her terminally ill partner. Her descriptions of the attacks and the chaotic evacuation of area residents are vivid, bringing immediacy to events most know only through pictures. Later, after she returns home, military checkpoints isolate her shattered neighborhood from the rest of Manhattan, while outside there’s a scene of unbearable devastation, as workers sift through rubble in a bleak search for the dead. At this point, Frey delves deeper, exploring the long-term impact of 9/11 and the challenges of caring for the frequently irascible Ronald, whose illness—inclusion body myositis—severely limits his mobility. While Frey strives to remain strong under increasing pressure, she begins to crack when faced with the constant presence of Ground Zero, the strain of supporting a failing spouse and the stress of a complicated love triangle. The disaster area outside her windows mirrors her mental distress; she compares her anger to “fire in the ruins.” As the book progresses, however, some of Frey’s readers may begin to lose patience, echoing the complaint of one friend that Frey has become “self-absorbed and obsessive.” Still, Frey resists the temptation to paint herself as a saint, instead writing with candor about her guilt, depression, fear and impatience, while also conveying her commitment to her husband, marriage and forging a path back to normalcy. While Frey’s writing is solid, if not spectacular, the book’s real power is its unflinchingly honest—if occasionally uncomfortable—discussion of the painful realities of love, illness and death. Engaging and candid; an insightful look at how one woman copes with personal and national trauma.

 

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461138242

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

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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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