An unsatisfying memoir of the search for meaning.



A New Yorker’s wandering spiritual memoir.

In his late 50s, former Parade editor in chief Kravitz (Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things, 2010) decided that he needed to find a spiritual dimension to his life. Raised as a Jew, he rejected the religion of his family out of hand due to a distaste for the services of his youth. As a young man, Kravitz dabbled in Christianity but then spent nearly four decades suppressing or ignoring any spiritual desires and instincts. This was largely due to the fact that his wife (also born Jewish) was steadfastly atheist. Though Kravitz paints his wife’s atheism as a source of tension, readers find her to be a tolerant, even supportive, partner in the midst of his quest for meaning. Given the book’s subtitle, readers await a climactic moment of conflict, yet nothing of the sort arises. Kravitz seems to be risking little for his faith, and his struggle seems especially insignificant in the shadow of his immigrant ancestors’ memories. The author’s two-year journey of faith traditions was one that could only exist in a place like New York. He sat in on Quaker meetings and was drawn into transcendental meditation. He explored chanting and Buddhism and even consulted with an astrologer. In the end, he settled on Jewish Renewal, in which mysticism and Eastern religions inform ancient Jewish ritual, and he joined a Renewal synagogue near his home. Readers may be convinced that this may simply be a pit stop, not an ending point, for the author. Kravitz is unclear on whether he believes in an actual, supernatural God, though he makes it clear that he is unconcerned what path his children take, “[a]s long as they lead empathic, meaning-filled lives.”

An unsatisfying memoir of the search for meaning.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59463-125-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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