A surviving-middle-age story that artfully blends the intriguing world of natural science with the theater of human foibles.

WAKING UP IN EDEN

IN PURSUIT OF AN IMPASSIONED LIFE ON AN IMPERILED ISLAND

Journalist Fleeson fashions a new life for herself at a Hawaiian botanical garden.

When the bean counters took over the Philadelphia Inquirer, the author knew her days were numbered. She nipped a potential midlife crisis in the bud by accepting an out-of-the-blue job offer to become a fundraiser for the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Kauai, Hawaii. Gardening had always been a passion of hers, and here was a chance to make an impact. As her new boss and friend, colorfully irrepressible botanist Dr. Bill Klein, said, “It’s the nature of gardeners to take these disasters and improve on them.” He might have been speaking of Fleeson’s life, but he was actually referring to their task of getting the NTBG back on its feet after many moribund years and a devastating hurricane. Fleeson sets forth in appealingly bald language the events of her days: learning the ropes at work, delving into the history of the botanical garden, maintaining her love life, pursuing the island’s more telling stories. She downplays her emotions but doesn’t scant the intimacy of her role as participant, chronicling missteps aplenty while she negotiates her way through the cultural pitfalls of both her new job and Hawaiian society. Fleeson’s descriptive talents come to the fore as she summons the pungent dilapidation of her surroundings and the drama of the landscape, “a fertile universe, primordial and undisturbed.” She shows finesse in making vest-pocket stories of her investigations: the controversy over native vs. exotic species, Isabella Bird’s Hawaiian sojourn, the role of plate tectonics in Hawaii’s geology, profiles of the men whose estate became the NTBG and island biogeography and extinction. Additional subjects include death, politics and eating mangoes in the nude.

A surviving-middle-age story that artfully blends the intriguing world of natural science with the theater of human foibles.

Pub Date: June 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-56512-486-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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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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