An intriguing peek into a piece of Americana that will likely appeal mainly to derby enthusiasts.

The Last "True" Roller Derby

A debut memoir offers a decade’s worth of insider stories from a roller derby star.

Early on, Smith says he is writing this book for the many roller derby “fans who love the game and travel four hundred to five hundred miles to attend matches in their area.” Indeed, this is a work for devotees, those familiar with the rules and terminology, not to mention the players, of a sport that seems to have reached its peak in the early 1970s. It is also for his fellow skaters, who should thoroughly enjoy the recollections. Other readers may wish to Google a glossary of the lingo to follow along. Still, the author offers plenty of captivating tidbits for the nonaficionado. Smith has a compelling personal story to tell, and the on-track and off-track antics of the professional men and women who willingly endured all manner of broken body parts to partake in the joy of skating remain quite astounding. The back stories of heavy drinking and fast driving could put today’s bad-boy athletes to shame, although there is a noticeable respect for women among this group. Smith describes a violent combat sport, with fans happy to join in the mayhem. After 1973, the derby became scripted: plays and fights were prearranged, and that’s when Smith and his then-wife, Francine Cochu, a derby star in her own right, decided to retire. The author examines the uniqueness of roller derby: teams comprised a men’s group and a women’s group, and the final outcomes were determined by combining the two scores; players drove from town to town in 16-to-17-day spurts without a break; the team had to set up and tear down its own derby tracks in each town; and the skaters received terrible pay. Smith delivers what is really a series of vignettes, often forsaking chronology for the memory of the moment, so there is considerable jumping back and forth in time. This sometimes results in a tedious repetition of events and personal history that should be summarized in the second or third mention rather than repeated. But his text turns out to be comfortably conversational, best in small doses.

An intriguing peek into a piece of Americana that will likely appeal mainly to derby enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8017-6

Page Count: 244

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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