An enthralling meditation on place.



A longing for home sends the author around the world.

In a memoir remarkable for its intimacy, wisdom, and radiant prose, Scottish singer/songwriter Tallack (Fair Isle: Through the Seasons, 2010), who was born in Shetland and lives in Glasgow, follows the 60th parallel, the border marking the harsh, remote northern regions from the more populous south. His purpose, though, is not to produce a travelogue about ruggedly exotic landscapes but to ask a philosophical question: “where am I?” From the age of 10, living in the Shetlands with his mother and brother after his parents divorced, he felt alienated and uprooted, which later intensified into “an unshakable feeling of exile and of homesickness” and an urge to find a place where he belonged. His father’s sudden death, when the author was 16, further fueled his restlessness and inspired his journey. Leaving Scotland, he headed west to Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Siberia, St. Petersburg, Finland, Sweden, and Norway before returning home. At each stop, his observations include not only a close examination of geology, geography, flora and fauna, but also history, myth, art, and literature. Tallack discovers a palimpsest of lives: he traces the arrival of Norsemen in Greenland at the end of the first millennium C.E., for example, where they encountered peoples “whom they called skraelings: wretches,” with whom they co-existed in “an uneasy balance.” The author offers a capsule history of opulent, besieged St. Petersburg, whose architecture, an amalgam of European styles, reflects the grand designs of various czars and czarinas. He also fell in love, unexpectedly, with Kamchatka, in desolate Siberia: “there was a stillness at its heart that seemed to calm, temporarily, the restlessness in my own.” He felt the same “deep centredness and settledness” in Fair Isle, an island off Scotland, and stayed for three years before loneliness impelled him back to Shetland. Throughout, Tallack renders descriptions of his emotional landscape as delicately as his painterly descriptions of the physical world.

An enthralling meditation on place.

Pub Date: July 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-146-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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 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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