A pleasing metaphysical ramble through the nexus of self, emotion, memory, and experience in the digital age.

FRAGMENTS OF AN INFINITE MEMORY

MY LIFE WITH THE INTERNET

A French writer and translator explores the changing nature of the human experience when the internet is virtually inescapable.

Most Gen X readers have the ability to remember life before the internet but also to live now at the relentless pace that the digital age requires. Renouard, formerly a teacher of philosophy, turns his considerable intellect to the consequences of life with the internet, specifically his own. One might expect such a contemplation to be either technical in detail or hopelessly academic, but the author strikes a surprisingly conversational tone. As the narrative opens, the author is on a Paris boulevard, idly daydreaming about whether he could use Google to reconstruct where he was and what he was doing at a certain time two evenings prior. “For some people,” he writes, “to throw a few words into Google has become the gesture of a new form of divination—googlemancy.” These succinct but evocative chapters aren’t essays in the traditional sense but rather pieces of a scaffolding on which the author can hang his often inspired, sometimes perplexing reflections. It doesn’t hurt that Renouard’s language is quite nimble. He can state the obvious with grace—“Each generation sees the technological advances of the previous era—no matter how near—as excrescences of an ancient world”—and then circle back to the thought in a subsequent chapter with a poetic melancholy: “In the Internet there is a fountain of youth into which you drunkenly plunge your face at first, then see your reflection battered by the years, in the dawn light.” Using films, books, and personal experiences as touchstones, Renouard offers a thoughtful consideration not of the internet’s properties or even its possibilities but how its very presence changes us as human beings.

A pleasing metaphysical ramble through the nexus of self, emotion, memory, and experience in the digital age.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68137-280-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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