An absorbing, emotionally raw memoir.



An intimate chronicle of the cruel and dehumanizing experience of incarceration.

At the age of 53, Schwartz (Angels Crest, 2004, etc.), a fiction writer, essayist, and writing teacher, began a 90-day sentence at a Los Angeles county jail for DUI. By the time she began her term, she had been sober for six months, following a devastating 414-day relapse of drinking and drugs. In “a chronic state of blackout,” her writing career tanked; her husband, teenage daughter, and most of her friends left her; twice, she nearly died from an overdose. Arrested four times, mostly for DUI, she crashed two cars and lost her license and most of her money. Ashamed and grateful that she never killed anyone when driving drunk, she was overcome with anger and self-pity despite realizing the pain that her alcoholism had inflicted on those closest to her. “Sometimes I would look at you when you were drunk and wish you were dead,” her daughter told her. For Schwartz, incarceration was both “soul crushing” and ultimately liberating. Jail was a leveler, where everyone—prostitutes, addicts, murderers, and women too poor to pay parking tickets—was reduced to a barcoded wristband. In jail, she reflects, “it was impossible to stereotype. Everything I thought I knew about what and who people supposedly were was forever stripped from me.” She forged close, empathetic friendships with her cellmates: obese Duckie, who took Schwartz under her wing; “tough, wise Wynell,” a prostitute who revealed a life story of poverty, violence, and fear. The author witnessed “the depravity of power” that pervades the criminal justice system. Besides her relationships with her fellow prisoners, she found solace in 22 books—fiction, poetry, and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous—that she read hungrily. From Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, she learned that “change is only possible through self-forgiveness,” and “sanity meant I had to stop blaming everyone for the fury of my addiction.”

An absorbing, emotionally raw memoir.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-53463-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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