Ureneck’s story is simple, but it rewards abundantly by affirming the unexpected possibilities for renewal that life offers.

CABIN

TWO BROTHERS, A DREAM, AND FIVE ACRES IN MAINE

A modern-day Walden with a midlife twist.

“I had been city-bound for nearly a decade, dealing with the usual knockdowns and disappointments of middle-age,” writes Ureneck (Journalism/Boston Univ.; Backcast: Fatherhood, Fly-fishing, and a River Journey Through the Heart of Alaska, 2007). “The notion of building a cabin—a boy’s dream really—seemed a way to get a purchase on life’s next turn.” The author was not consciously attempting a Thoreauvian experiment in self-sufficiency. Rather, he was trying to save himself from the wreckage—a painful divorce, the loss of his mother and uncles to death and disease and a major career change—of a life gone awry. Loneliness and despair threatened to engulf him; the only family members who remained were his two grown children, both of whom lived apart from him and his younger brother Paul, a man absorbed by his own trials. Heartsick and confused, he bought a piece of land in the woods of western Maine. There, Ureneck, along with his brother and his brother’s sons, spent the latter part of 2008 and all of 2009 constructing the cabin, “employing, as much as possible, old-fashioned wood joinery rather than nails.” At first, this “experiment in mental health” was the author’s way to enjoy the two things that had been constants in an otherwise fragmented life: Paul’s company and a love of the natural world. But as the project evolved, Ureneck realized that the cabin-building process—selecting the timber to use in construction; digging and laying in the foundations; assembling the wood pieces together; securing the final structure both inside and out—was allowing him to not only confront and resolve issues from his past, but also giving him the opportunity to build a mature relationship with a beloved brother he felt he had let down in youth.

Ureneck’s story is simple, but it rewards abundantly by affirming the unexpected possibilities for renewal that life offers.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02294-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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