Sometimes gonzo, sometimes hard-charging—a welcome report from the front lines in a time of torment and hope.

FROM CHERNOBYL WITH LOVE

REPORTING FROM THE RUINS OF THE SOVIET UNION

A then newly minted journalist recounts her sojourn in the one-time Soviet Union, a tumultuous empire desperately searching for its identity.

"The year is 1998, and newspapers are still being read,” writes California-based freelancer Cengel (Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back, 2018, etc.). Looking for a job, the author answered an ad and found herself reporting from the ashes of the former Soviet Union. It was a confusing but compelling place, as her lively narrative reveals. Cengel begins in the once-occupied Baltic republic of Latvia. She made her way to the Ukraine just in time to witness a number of historical events and their aftermaths. Latvia was a particularly unknown spot on the map, or at least in the author’s geography, and moving there was a rare and risky move that came at a time when “communication with far-off countries was less common than it is now.” She quickly made herself at home at a Riga newspaper; soon after that, with her “lurid fascination” for fraught human-interest stories, she became features editor. Among the stories she recounts is that of a gulag survivor who was determined to see the international community recognize and condemn the evils of the totalitarian system that packed him off to Siberia in a railroad car. Another is of a Ukrainian woman who, a slave laborer in Germany during World War II, returned there as a tourist: “It had happened; apologies would now mean nothing." Throughout, Cengel demonstrates a knack for finding compelling stories, including an on-the-ground report from Chernobyl at a time when engineers were still working to cap off the reactor with a cement sarcophagus, “an imperfect and semi-temporary solution” that all these years later remains in place. More than her stories, the author has a fine eye for the details of newsroom politics back when newspapers were read and newsrooms were packed with offbeat characters.

Sometimes gonzo, sometimes hard-charging—a welcome report from the front lines in a time of torment and hope.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64012-204-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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