Like the ivory-billed woodpecker, the center deal may be alive and well, comfortably living in secrecy. Johnson’s tribute...

THE MAGICIAN AND THE CARDSHARP

THE SEARCH FOR AMERICA’S GREATEST SLEIGHT-OF-HAND ARTIST

Dealing cards from the center of the deck, a trick only the most exquisite dealers can manage, forms the heart of journalist Johnson’s story of a card artist and crooked gambler.

Dai Vernon was a magician, a fine hand at string and colored silks, cups and balls and coins, but he will be remembered for his finesse at cards, his astonishing, natural and casual grace. He was not a gambler, though, and spent much of his life working as a cutter of silhouettes, a pleasant art form affordable even in the Depression era. With Wichita for a hometown, the Vernon that Johnson reveals became a true obsessive: He would spend hours, weeks, years refining his magic technique—he never went in for smoke, mirrors and wires, preferring the sleight-of-the-unadorned-hand along with any psychological subtleties he might work on his mark. Allen Kennedy, on the other hand, was pure cardsharp and shadows: quiet, unassuming and in complete control of the game, stacking and peeking and dealing from the bottom. And Kennedy could deal from the center of the deck, something Vernon had only heard rumors of. Johnson follows Vernon as he manages to track Kennedy down outside Kansas City to learn the trick of the center draw (it requires doing finger exercises practiced by pianists; Johnson is good at explaining the mechanics). It almost seems that Vernon and Kennedy alone had the requisite touch for the center deal, until Johnson notes a tantalizing story. In 1982, a casino surveillance expert was patrolling the catwalks when he witnessed for the first time a sharp dealing from the center. He didn’t turn the man in—the stakes simply weren’t that high—but observed the rarity from afar and with utter admiration.

Like the ivory-billed woodpecker, the center deal may be alive and well, comfortably living in secrecy. Johnson’s tribute will make you hope so.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7406-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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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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