Poet and essayist Robison’s (What Matters, 2001, etc.) autobiography of madness and redemption—completing a trilogy of dysfunction of sorts, joining the memoirs of her sons, Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors, 2002) and John Elder Robison (Look Me in the Eye, 2007).

The author was raised in rural Georgia in the 1930s amid a family of secrets—a depressed father and a mother defeated by life, and aunts not spoken of who were spirited away to mental institutions. In her search for her artistic voice and confused sexuality, she bent to the will of family and times. Doing what was expected of her, she married John, a young divinity student and later a philosophy professor. John could be loving and kind, but more often—over decades of married life—drunk, violent and psychotic, with frequent and recurrent stays in psychiatric hospitals. In the process, he left deep wounds on his wife and children. Finally, depression and psychosis overtook Robison herself and she too was committed. Yet, as she writes, “madness broke through the thick walls of repression,” and she began to write. Still, she had to extricate herself from John and from an ersatz and cult-like psychiatrist, under whose spell she had fallen until he tried to rape her. But Robison persevered, continuing to write and teach and finding love and companionship with a woman. Though a stroke rendered her left side paralyzed, she eventually regained the speech she had lost. She also found her voice, and in old age made the story of her life her own. Robison’s story, fairly or not, is really one about women and men—how women can become lost and wounded in the world of men and saved and renewed in the world of women. A harshly honest memoir that paints a portrait of a woman and a life, both brave and flawed.


Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6869-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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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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