A rare eyewitness account by a Chinese dissident who managed to flee to the West to gain his freedom and tell his story.

FOR A SONG AND A HUNDRED SONGS

A POET'S JOURNEY THROUGH A CHINESE PRISON

In this third translation of Liao’s work (The Corpse Walker, God Is Red), Wenguang Huang renders a lively, vernacular, fluent sense of the poet’s angry depiction of being abruptly apprended by police in 1990 while making a protest film after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A somewhat listless poet, at the time living in Fuling, whose family had been uprooted during the Cultural Revolution (involving the horribly traumatic death of the author’s older sister in a bus accident), Liao was radicalized by the government’s barbarous treatment of the student demonstrators in 1989, when he penned the incendiary poem “Massacre.” A harsh and arbitrary detention ensued over two months at the Song Mountain center, where he was brutally initiated into the hierarchical system of the inmates, such as the “menu” of “dishes” meted out as sadistic punishment among the prisoners—e.g., “Stewed Pig’s Nose,” in which “the enforcer squeezes the inmate’s lips between chopsticks until they swell up”; or “Barbequed Pig’s Chin,” when “the enforcer delivers a blow to the unsuspecting inmate’s chin from below, crushing his teeth together.” Educated and considered “intellectual,” however, the author seems to have skirted the worst of the treatment, likely due to the fact that he was literate and able to help others write letters and read. Yet he was also recalcitrant and refused to sign a confession, prolonging his incarceration. Fighting lice, the brutality of the “enforcers,” horrific deprivation of privacy and basic human needs, suicidal urges and the deep contemplation of death, the author survived by the sheer goodwill and kindness of others, such as the aged Buddhist monk who taught him to play the flute. Liao’s work is an amazing testament to the people who are battling the Chinese police state.

A rare eyewitness account by a Chinese dissident who managed to flee to the West to gain his freedom and tell his story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-89263-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amazon/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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