DREAMS AND DESTINIES

The great novelist tells us what she dreams about. Between 1930 and 1936 Marguerite Yourcenar conscientiously recorded her dreams when she woke up in the morning. In 1938 she published them in France. Why? Certain obvious reasons come to mind, but they are wrong: she is not a Freudian or Jungian dream interpreter, and she thinks little of the surrealists’ enthusiasm for dreams. Yourcenar, a supremely autonomous intellectual, was seeking to explore the dreamlife on her own, without help from orthodox schools of thought. What interested her was not the universal—common to all dreamers (therefore conventional sex dreams are excluded)—but the highly individual. Consequently, one could take this book as a skeleton key to the writer’s inner self, though it might be more appropriate simply to take the book at face value. It collects a person’s nocturnal adventures. But it does so in remarkably beautiful and acute prose: “I do not, however, draw near him; I consider his solitude as a form of nudity that I have no right to spy on in secret.” “He picks up the telephone receiver and gets ready to lie the way a virtuoso prepares to play.” The pleasure of reading her strange dreams is highly literary in a way that is simultaneously sensual and intellectual. And she proposes the idea that dreams are related more closely to the processes of memory than of the imagination. This new, first-ever English translation includes not only the 1938 publication in its entirety but also Yourcenar’s substantial set of notes, mostly from the 1970s, which she made toward a planned sequel that never came to be. These notes, fragmentary as they are, are also highly engaging. The translator’s preface is verbosely academic, but the high quality of his translation redeems him. This fine and unique book could help wrest our dreamlives from the Freudians and Jungians who have colonized them: “It is not the symbol that will instruct us about man’s secrets, but what we know about the man that determines the meaning of the symbols.”

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-21289-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

more