An uneven document, at times rich in the details of one man’s psyche and life in Middle America, at other times a raging...

MY RIVER HOME

A JOURNEY FROM THE GULF WAR TO THE GULF OF MEXICO

The journal of a grueling, risk-filled rafting trip down the Mississippi River, interspersed with the author’s still-vivid memories of his experience as a young marine in the Gulf War.

Eriksen, now an antiwar activist, had promised himself while in Kuwait in 1991 that he would make this river trip through the heart of America, and more than a decade later he makes good on that promise, partly to reconnect with his country and partly, in his words, to find himself. The Bottle Rocket, his homemade pontoon raft supported by plastic soda bottles and equipped with a pedal-powered paddle wheel, is too ungainly for the shallow waters of the northernmost part of the river, which he traverses in a canoe in August, but it serves as his home from September 2003 to January 2004. In October, he is joined by his ex-fiancée Jenna, who shares his hardships and both annoys and assists him. Life aboard a raft, with days spent dodging barges and floating trees and other obstacles, and nights usually spent outdoors in a sleeping bag, is rough, but people they meet along the way are often remarkably helpful, providing hot meals, showers and warm, dry beds. Woven into Eriksen’s account of this journey are his recollections of his gung-ho boyhood, his training as a marine and most of all his months in Kuwait, where the erstwhile warrior becomes a disillusioned, bored looter in a filthy, stinking, death-filled desert, outraged to find the enemy equipped with American arms. During the Iraq war, Eriksen, a member of Veterans for Peace, demonstrates from coast to coast against the rising death toll. What has been a gripping journal-cum-memoir becomes a tirade against the administration, its advisors and corporations that profit from war. Patriotic young Americans today, he says, are dying “not for freedom, democracy, or protection of the homeland, but for the profit and political survival of a powerful few.”

An uneven document, at times rich in the details of one man’s psyche and life in Middle America, at other times a raging op-ed piece.

Pub Date: April 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-8070-7275-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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 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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