Kaiser asserts her endearingly honest voice in this slim volume, raising profound questions about family and death, though...

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LETTERS TO MY MOTHER

BUT REALLY FOR MY FATHER

A young widow who lost her mother takes solace in an unusual medium—a series of 16 confessional letters.

Kaiser’s deeply touching one-way correspondence has one ostensible purpose: to ask her dead mother for advice on communicating with her father. She doesn’t want to find herself writing more questioning missives to him after he’s gone. But these letters read more like diary entries; the author chronicles everyday happenings and free-associates them with standout childhood memories. In each, Kaiser divulges her admiration for her mother, who wrangled a household of eight children with nary a smudge of her omnipresent bright red lipstick and who made time to read to her brood each night; later in life, she maintained a Beanie Baby loaner library for her grandchildren. Kaiser expresses much gratitude, but she also feels compelled to explain times when she pulled away. “This next sentence is hard to write,” she confesses, “but somewhere in my growing up I learned not to expect emotional comfort from you.” She also wants to apologize for never taking her mother for a pedicure. A loved one’s absence amplifies the quotidian alongside bigger existential questions, and Kaiser captures that dichotomy with candor and grace. She owns up to her personal shortcomings, fashioning herself as a totally relatable narrator, much as Anne Lamott has done in her memoirs. Kaiser’s direct voice, steeped in the kind of wisdom that develops from experience, hints at the fact that she has performed these letters onstage; each letter a monologue, their shifts in emotional tone certainly would make for a compelling one-woman show. In book form, however, they leave the reader wanting more; much back story seems to have been deleted for the sake of a crisp delivery. Expanding each chapter to fill in gaps between the colorful vignettes would improve the work.

Kaiser asserts her endearingly honest voice in this slim volume, raising profound questions about family and death, though the epistolary format constrains its narrative potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1453600092

Page Count: 92

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2012

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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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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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