Adds very little to this far more than twice-told tale. (11 b&w photos)

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ZELDA SAYRE FITZGERALD

AN AMERICAN WOMAN’S LIFE

Another analysis of the Zelda-and-Scott train wreck, this one heavier on feminist psychology, lighter on quotidian detail.

The prolific Wagner-Martin (Sylvia Plath, 1999, etc.) doesn’t offer much that’s new in her narration of one of the saddest stories of the last century; for that, see Sally Cline’s much more richly detailed Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Life in Paradise (2003). The author acknowledges that much of the Fitzgeralds’ story can’t be known because both principals told self-serving versions of their troubles; correspondence is missing, and even the remaining documents (e.g., Scott’s ledger) offer only dubious, unreliable evidence. So Wagner-Martin’s approach is to include commentary—sometimes piquant, relevant, and enlightening, sometimes not—by an assortment of psychologists and psycho-theorists, from Jung to Jean Baker Miller to Marilyn Yalom to Jane Ussher. (An annoyance: sometimes the quotations are unattributed in the text, forcing the curious reader to search the endnotes for the source.) From these folks we are supposed to learn more about how women are affected by pregnancy, how the death of a parent can hurt, why alcoholics drink, what schizophrenia really means. The technique is generally obtrusive and unsuccessful. Wagner-Martin emphasizes Zelda’s early life as a cosseted child and a southern belle (she was the unconventional teen-queen of Montgomery, Alabama) and declares, a tad unfairly, that previous biographers have not recognized the significance of these years. The author also highlights Zelda’s talents as a dancer—better than either her husband or her critics have acknowledged—an artist, and a writer, at one point waxing effusive about the “sonority” and “tonal pattern” of her prose. And Wagner-Martin provides a good account of the double narrative Scott and Zelda provided her doctors in May 1933, a bizarre and heart-wrenching confrontation that runs 114 pages in the typed version of the stenographer’s record. When an angry Scott calls her a third-rate writer and dancer, Zelda replies, “You have told me that before.”

Adds very little to this far more than twice-told tale. (11 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2004

ISBN: 1-4039-3403-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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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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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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