Still: Often wry, always witty—a fascinating glimpse of the Big Bang in folk music.

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE WOMEN

MEMOIRS OF AN IRISH TROUBADOR

A member of an acclaimed Irish folk-singing group (The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem) creates a crisp, sprightly chronicle of his impoverished childhood and his rise to prominence during the hootenanny era of the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Clancy remembers a WWII childhood with days so cold that ice formed in the chamber pots and meals were so lean for the 10 children that he sometimes ate mortar from the chimney. Although Clancy was a shy boy (the nuns in school terrified him), and although his father wanted him to go into the insurance business (a brief tenure in the profession cured Clancy of that notion), the young man fell in love with poetry and drama and the cinema. He eventually earned a small part in a play starring Cyril Cusak, who told Clancy to drop the name “William” and go by the more exotic “Liam.” Clancy’s life changed when some collectors of folk songs arrived in Ireland in 1955. He joined them, met his life-long friend Tommy Makem in the process, and began his love affair with Irish music that endures to this day. He eventually went to the US, where he met and socialized with the young (and old) lions of folk music: Josh White, Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, the Kingston Trio, and many others. He had an uncomfortable relationship with Diane Hamilton (a Guggenheim), who supported him financially but offered a romance he could not reciprocate. After some experiences acting, Clancy, two of his brothers and friend Tommy Makem began singing traditional Irish songs and caught lightning in a bottle. The memoir ends in 1961 as Dame Fame arrives for a lengthy sojourn: “We’re fuckin’ famous!” cries brother Tom after an appearance with Ed Sullivan. But Clancy does not always struggle sufficiently against the obvious (“Life is never the same after such an experience,” he writes about the death of his father).

Still: Often wry, always witty—a fascinating glimpse of the Big Bang in folk music.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-50204-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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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