Johnson negotiates a path between vengeance and hand-wringing despair in this thoughtful and probing collection.

THE RECKONINGS

ESSAYS

Who pays the costs of violence, whether waged against a person, group, or environment? That’s the broad question Johnson (Creative Nonfiction/Rice Univ.) tackles in this follow-up to her 2014 memoir, The Other Side.

While the author’s previous book described her hellish experience as a victim of kidnap and rape, this book of essays takes the recovery process to the next level, searching for ways to redress loss without resorting to eye-for-eye retribution. Johnson has startled audiences by refusing to wish the worst for her own attacker: “I don’t want him dead. I don’t even want him to suffer. More pain creates more sorrow, sometimes generations of sorrow, and it amplifies injustice rather than cancels it out.” Doling out punishment is easy; the challenge comes in creating change, especially in figuring out just where it begins. As her thoughts switch gears from the personal to the collective, the question of personal culpability increases. She’s against racism, but she knows she has enjoyed white privilege in her role as a professor. She protests against the BP Deepwater Horizon spill but wonders if her own job—at a school that is also a BP beneficiary—doesn’t in some way make her responsible. She asks, too, if rehabilitation is possible when the criminal is either a major corporation or, in the case of a landfill with World War II–era toxic waste, no longer around to face the consequences. “There is no one to arrest for this, to send to jail, to fine or execute or drag to his humiliation on the city square,” writes the author. In the face of crimes that affect both the one and the many, she makes a plea for activism, art, and—as she experienced when her Houston home flooded last year—common decency.

Johnson negotiates a path between vengeance and hand-wringing despair in this thoughtful and probing collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5900-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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