An incisive, welcome look at prison life in the U.S.

A GRIP OF TIME

WHEN PRISON IS YOUR LIFE

An intrepid journalist immerses herself in a maximum security prison.

Displaying her impeccable observational skills, Kessler (Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker, 2015, etc.) takes on the complex, fraught subject of incarceration in America. For most Americans, she writes, the portrayals of prisons in dramas like The Shawshank Redemption and Orange Is the New Black are the only sources of information about that world. “We figured we knew what was what. But of course we didn’t,” she explains, stating that her mission was to “learn about this hidden world. So that we all could. I could teach these men to craft stories. They could educate me about prison life. I needed to know—I thought we all needed to know—who these people were that we put away, far away from us, in a country that puts more people in prison than any other country on earth.” After arduously pursuing permission to launch a writers group at Oregon State Penitentiary, she finally succeeded and spent the next three years visiting inmates willing to participate in the Lifers’ Writing Group. Her group included a dozen convicted murderers of varying ages serving life sentences, some with, others without, parole. Some participated regularly, others came and went, but the core became committed to expressing themselves through the written word. Discussing everything from “joy” to “privacy” to topics like recidivism, Kessler moved deeper into these men’s collective life experiences as they revealed themselves both verbally and on the page. Their inner thoughts and feelings are as eye-opening as they are enlightening. “I am, time and again, struck by their intelligence, their insight, their candor, their humor,” writes the author. Between poignant moments tossed up with the drudgeries, frustrations, and clever dodges of prison life, Kessler gives a pulsing heart and a human face to this portion of the population all too often forgotten outside the walls.

An incisive, welcome look at prison life in the U.S.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68435-078-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Red Lightning Books

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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