Sometimes a memoir writer makes the unfortunate decision to turn a potentially good 20-page article into a work many times that length. Goran's book is Exhibit A. Goran, a novelist (Mrs. Beautiful, not reviewed, etc.) and English professor at the University of Miami, co-led a weekly creative writing course there with Isaac Bashevis Singer for a decade (197888) while also helping translate and edit some of Singer's stories. His portrait of their friendship consists largely of seemingly verbatim transcripts of conversations; how they were remembered or recorded is never explained. Occasionally puckish or otherwise witty, these exchanges far too often consist of forgettable banter. Goran works diligently to capture an intense, decade-long friendship, and offers an occasional piquant observation (e.g., a reference to Singer's ``giddy savage world''). But for a teacher of writing, he also delivers himself of some peculiar, portentous prose (e.g., ``He remains for me the spokesman of our dilemma of unbelonging'') and cites some dubious second- and third-hand reports of ``acts'' and ``quotes'' (he quotes Singer as having remarked that Elie Wiesel, a fellow Jewish-European-American Nobel laureate, allegedly complained to a friend in Paris that ``Isaac Singer is the worst enemy of the Jews after Hitler''; Goran apparently made no effort to verify these words). At times, he does step back from their conversations to portray more vividly the very sad, even pitiable, man Singer had become at the end of his life: often lonely, misanthropic, melancholy, self-centered, and emotionally withholding. In his last few years (the octogenarian Singer died in 1991) his tendency towards absentmindedness and fearfulness became considerably more pronounced. But this memoir is sad too for what it reveals about the author, who seems largely unable to winnow out much of substance from a great deal of oral fluff.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-87338-506-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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