DeSalvo (Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work, 1989) demonstrates that when the act of creation is also one of revenge, the primal ooze of literature can be extremely foul. But her project begs the underlying question for literary criticism of the relation between a writer's life and work. DeSalvo examines four authors who turned family and friends into characters in their fiction. Before Leonard and Virginia Woolf's marriage settled into an exemplary working partnership, it went through a poisonous phase; he published The Wise Virgins, which attacked the way Virginia ``looked, talked, and thought,'' satirized and rewrote scenes from her novel The Voyage Out, and fictionally erased their marriage when the ``Leonard'' character decided not to marry the ``Virginia'' character. When D.H. Lawrence became disenchanted with his friend Lady Ottoline Morell, he created a contemptuous portrait of her as Women in Love's Hermione Rodrice. Although Bloomsbury gossips (and his wife, Frieda, whose dislike for Ottoline was returned in kind) were delighted, Ottoline was crushed and humiliated. During the first 18 years of her life Djuna Barnes had no contact with people outside her family, which, DeSalvo reports, practiced incest, ritual rape, group sex, spirit possession, bestiality, and forced voyeurism. Although her early works referred obliquely to these events, it was not until her mother died that Barnes penned her most autobiographical work, The Antiphon, exploring the horrors inflicted on children by their own parents. Henry Miller's obsession with his dark muse and second wife, June (and her insistence that a former Western Union clerk could become a writer), dragged them through an emotionally explosive and mutually exploitative relationship during which her work as a prostitute barely maintained them in grinding poverty. A work that reveals a disturbing fascination with the rottenness at the core of some literature and delivers it with the relish of a tabloid.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 1994

ISBN: 0-525-93899-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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 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...


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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