A fine core soured by the writer’s own story.

MY UTMOST

A DEVOTIONAL MEMOIR

An exploration of one of Christianity’s great devotional works.

In her debut book, former New Yorker writer Halford fashions a memoir around a study of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest (1935). Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish evangelist best known for a daily devotional edited from his writings and published posthumously. Utmost, as Halford refers to it, is a bestselling devotional, highly popular with evangelicals—including, as the author learned to her horror, George W. Bush. Halford, a Southern Baptist from Texas who went on to work in New York City, with stints in Paris and the U.K., struggled with the gulf between the world of her youth and that of her adulthood. Having spent years reading Utmost on a daily basis, she set out to study Chambers and more fully understand his motivations and ideals. She couches her study within her own autobiography, an intriguing concept that meets with only partial success. Halford finds in Chambers a kindred spirit in many ways. An avid reader and intellectual, Chambers was deeply shaped by the secular writers of his day; as such, “the book was shot through with the influence of poetry and fiction, those breeds of literature that traffic as heavily in mood as they do in ideas.” Halford concludes that the Realism movement was one of Chambers’ primary influences. She also learns of his complex spiritual journey, which included a profound moment of sanctification, as well as the effects of World War I on his faith life. Ultimately, however, Chambers’ rich, intense, and selfless life and faith journey stand in stark contrast to Halford’s 21st-century angst over not fitting in with New York or Parisian intellectuals yet also not being part of the evangelical crowd either. This gulf disrupts an otherwise worthy study. Halford’s in-depth look at Chambers is interesting and instructive, but her memoir is thin in comparison.

A fine core soured by the writer’s own story.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-307-95798-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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