GOOD BONES AND SIMPLE MURDERS

Atwood (The Robber Bride, 1993, etc.) is always at her worst when her acerbic sneer overwhelms other elements, and there is barely room for anything else in these short-short works. With the laundry-list mentality usually reserved for dead authors, this collection gathers up pieces that have appeared in magazines and earlier collections and simply regroups them according to a criterion that has more to do with brevity than quality. Most lack structure and read like beginning ideas rather than finished stories. Some try to turn fairy tales around, but they tend to be unfocused. In "Unpopular Gals," an "ugly stepsister" rails against fairy-tale conventions like well-behaved daughters and the fact that "there are never any evil stepfathers." In "There Was Once," the narrator tries to write a fairy tale but keeps backtracking to avoid sounding "passe" and inaccurate. "Women's Novels" also attempts literary revisionism, but its stabs at humor are blunt ("Women's novels leave out parts of the men as well. Sometimes it's the stretch between the belly button and the knees, sometimes it's the sense of humor"). "Making a Man" gives instructions for just that, and again, jokes about making males out of marzipan and gingerbread do not go any deeper. "Happy Endings" fares a little better with a list of possible scenarios for a love relationship, prefaced by the warning to read only the first "If you want a happy ending," but it is the exception among smug fluff like the poem "Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women" ("all those who dry their freshly shampooed poodles in the microwave") and "Liking Men," an examination of men and their parts that veers far off-track. Atwood has clearly grasped the differences between men and women, but her mistake lies in believing that she is the only one who has. Readers will resent paying what averages out to about ten dollars per hour for this.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-47110-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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