An amusingly shrewd memoir of following a lifelong dream.

RAISING THE BARRE

BIG DREAMS, FALSE STARTS, AND MY MIDLIFE QUEST TO DANCE THE NUTCRACKER

Kessler (Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-aging, 2013, etc.) chronicles her obsession with dancing The Nutcracker.

When her husband set off on a three-week business trip to Paris, our narrator decided to go on a Nutcracker ballet binge. She attended performances in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and her hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Kessler has always loved ballet. She trained with André Eglevsky of Balanchine’s American Ballet Theatre until she overheard the bad news the great dancer delivered to her mother: “ ‘She has the wrong body.’ I heard the words “bottom heavy’ and ‘thighs.’ And my throat closed.” Thus ended her girlish lack of self-consciousness about her body and began her uneasy relationship with mirrors. However, years later as an adult, watching all of those performances again inspired her—“I am drunk on dance. I am bewitched. I am on fire”—to embark on her “Nut Quest.” The dream, she writes, is full of the “stuff of life,” which includes “fear, angst, pride, self-doubt, arrogance, fragility, optimism, pessimism, discontent, happiness, restlessness.” To be sure, the author suffered plenty of doubt due to her age, but she also enjoyed the benefits of self-discipline and humility. Kessler has a wonderfully self-conscious mettle as well, not to mention a deft hand with the evocative expression of her inner feelings. She provides a useful vest-pocket history of ballet, and The Nutcracker in particular, and she ably captures the abundant physical punishment, including difficult experiences with yoga, Pilates, boxing, Gyrotonics, water jogging, and hours at the barre and on the floor. Ultimately, Kessler succeeded and was cast in “a named part,” an outcome readers will applaud.

An amusingly shrewd memoir of following a lifelong dream.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7382-1831-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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