Meretricious? Maybe. But compelling.



Addicted to true-crime pulp and incisive literary memoir? Poet Nelson serves up both.

The author never met her aunt, Jane Mixer, who was murdered in 1969 before Nelson was born. Police thought that Mixer’s death was one of the “Michigan Murders,” serial killings of a group of young women. John Norman Collins was put in prison for one of those deaths but was never conclusively linked to Mixer’s murder. Around 2000, Nelson began writing a collection of poems entitled Jane: A Murder. In it, she rehearsed the crime itself and teased out the myriad ways Mixer’s violent death indelibly marked Nelson’s own family. The poet was stunned when, as the book was just about to be published in late 2004, a cop called her and said he had been working on Mixer’s case. The police now believed Collins had not killed Jane Mixer; they’d fingered a new suspect, Gary Leiterman, who was soon arrested. Nelson chronicles the summer of 2005, which she and her mother spent in Ann Arbor sitting through Leiterman’s trial, drinking glass after glass of wine each night. The trial itself is grueling: Detailed discussions of DNA and physical evidence, like Aunt Jane’s underwear, all concretize the horror of the crime. That same summer, Nelson was also processing the end of an intense romantic relationship, and her over-the-top descriptions of her brokenhearted despair seem out of place in this otherwise subtle narrative. Among the book’s luminous moments: a stirring portrait of the woman who discovered Jane’s body and was so traumatized by the event that 30 years later her doctor forbid her to testify; a conversation over margaritas with the man Jane was dating when she was killed; Nelson’s grandfather “cracking apart with animal sobs” after the verdict was announced.

Meretricious? Maybe. But compelling.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 1-4165-3203-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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 19, 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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