In its ambition, framing, and multiple layers, this raises the bar for graphic narrative. Even fans of her work in the New...

PASSING FOR HUMAN

A GRAPHIC MEMOIR

A graphic memoir turns the search for identity inside out as it illuminates the creative process.

This multilayered narrative might best be categorized as a “meta-memoir,” a memoir about the writing of this memoir. New Yorker cartoonist Finck (A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, 2014) struggles to achieve cohesion and coherence within a story that remains something of a muddle for her. The artist within the narrative dubs this “a neurological coming-of-age story,” as she attempts to account for her lifelong feelings of “otherness” or “weirdness” and writes of losing her own shadow, which gave her some perspective on her life and some meaning to it. So she tries to keep returning to the beginning, with each chapter labeled “Chapter One” in a work-in-progress titled “Passing for Human,” something that the artist—or the artist drawn by the author—apparently feels she hasn’t done very well. Finck begins one version of this narrative with her mother, another with her father, and a couple with a soulmate who keeps on disappearing. Preceding each fresh start is an epigram—from the likes of Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson et al.—and within many of them is an earlier creation story, a myth, or a Bible story, one that might connect to her experiences. All of this continues to swirl through the artist’s head, reducing her art to a scrawl and her consciousness to a mess of darkness—until the epiphany, when the art itself becomes luminous, as the pages turn from white to black and the lines on them from black to white, and the artist has transcended, her “fears, unarticulated [which] gnaw at her like rats.”

In its ambition, framing, and multiple layers, this raises the bar for graphic narrative. Even fans of her work in the New Yorker will be blindsided by this outstanding book.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-50892-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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 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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