A treasure trove of hard-earned wisdom and wit.

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Thornton’s debut collection of 44 true short stories lends a rare glimpse into coming-of-age in the rural American South.

Growing up on the Bend, a 30-family homestead on the North Carolina and Virginia border, Thornton spent most of his time lollygagging and making mischief. His stories are infused with such gleeful spirit that it’s easy to see why Thornton has developed a reputation among those that know him as the grandest of storytellers. Thornton shines as a narrator, whether he’s conspiring with friends to trick do-gooder passersby into picking up a “lost” pocketbook only to find a garden snake—or worse, a “turd”—hidden inside (“The Disappearing Pocketbooks”) or hiding his teacher’s yardstick after getting whacked one too many times for misbehaving (“Claustrophobia”). Beyond all the rabble-rousing, some of the best stories delve into the hardships of “getting by” in a poor, isolated community. He learns how to “make do” by reusing household objects (“Waste Not”), maintain a bountiful garden (“Putting Food on the Table”) and whip up tasty feasts in the kitchen from what most would consider inedible sources: chicken feet, squirrel brains and hog guts (“Strange Edibles”). The characters, too, are drawn with painstaking detail and affection. Shotgun Essie, Thornton’s grandmother, is a pistol and a half, and her adages speak volumes about her quirky personality. While Thornton’s writing style isn’t particularly polished, tidy sentences and careful paragraph construction are almost beside the point in these stories. Instead, readers will relish following Thornton as he leapfrogs from one tangential thought to the next, sharing gossip and porchside ramblings about those dear to his heart and the experiences that shaped him. Adding further atmosphere and depth to an already rich project are Harrison’s delicate, thoroughly expressive black-and-white sketches, as well as two maps of the Bend immediately following the foreword. Ultimately, the only activity more rewarding than reading these stories would be to hear Thornton tell them aloud, possibly while sitting around a campfire.

A treasure trove of hard-earned wisdom and wit.

Pub Date: June 10, 2010

ISBN: 978-1597150675

Page Count: 191

Publisher: Chapel Hill Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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 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...


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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