A work of descriptive virtuosity and a hard, honest pull through rough emotional terrain—an exemplary memoir.

CLAIMING GROUND

A MEMOIR

An elegant, deep-running chronicle of Bell’s 30 years living in the mountain West.

It begins as an encomium of place—the Lewis Ranch in northwestern Wyoming, up in the Bighorn Mountains, where the author took a job herding sheep, far indeed from her native Kentucky. She was fresh out of college, clueless but lucky to stumble into these parts, and she found herself a young woman among old male sheepherders—“tender alcoholics, muttering derelicts, societal rejects, and I had found a certain delicious comfort in their company.” When she could get it, that is, for the job was full of silence and space, tending to a knot of a thousand sheep, “a luminous, drifting mass that spills in rivulets through gulleys and rises up hillsides, conforming intricately to the imperfect shape of earth.” If the “bare-bones immensity of Wyoming can make you feel like a sacrifice left on a slab for the gods to pick clean,” all the better when it revealed its beauties, which Bell tenders with restrained grace. A few years later she was herding cattle and falling in love and marrying the wrong man, though her love of land and kin, particularly her parents and stepdaughters—drawn in intricate, emotionally charged portraits—helps get her through. She closes with a crushing death in the family, recounted with scalding vulnerability and sadness: “When I think the ash of every sorrow has burned cold, I’m mistaken.” The episode speaks volumes about fragility, impermanence and transformation. Slowly she made her way back to solid ground, in the same landscape she started with, and it can only be hoped that the next 30 years find her in the same state of raptness, but with an earned measure of serenity.

A work of descriptive virtuosity and a hard, honest pull through rough emotional terrain—an exemplary memoir.

Pub Date: March 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-27288-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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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