A provocative thesis bolstered by amusing and instructive anecdotes—but there is a flaw in the defensive line.

WHY FOOTBALL MATTERS

MY EDUCATION IN THE GAME

The author of Why Read? (2004) and other works of cultural criticism returns with a memoir/treatise about those personal virtues he traces back to his years playing high school football.

Edmundson (English/Univ. of Virginia; Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education, 2013, etc.) arranges each chapter in similar fashion. Each has a theme (courage, manliness, faith, etc.) that he introduces with football memories and expands with later-life examples. Throughout, the author acknowledges the dangers of the game—though for a more incisive discussion of that aspect of the game, see Steve Almond’s Against Football—and he is far too complex a thinker to simply repeat the mantras of coaches and unthinking fans (“Football builds character!”). Moreover, he adorns his text with allusions to writers and literary works. Melville, Joyce, Homer (there is a lot about The Iliad here), Emerson, Ellison, Hemingway, Dickey—these and others form his offensive line. Edmundson also employs references to popular culture (Johnny Carson is on special teams), and there are lots of engaging stories about high school. He begins with boyhood memories of watching football on TV with his father, who made a great ritual of Sundays spent watching his beloved New York Giants—though he had a great fondness, as well, for Jim Brown and Y.A. Tittle. Edmundson writes about how he was sort of disconnected when he decided to give the game a whirl and surprised himself with his assiduousness and determination. He is appealingly self-deprecating throughout and quite certain that it was on the gridiron that he learned and developed his adult virtues. Although he does have a few gratuitous (and unconvincing) comments about women (how do they become virtuous?), he does not have much to say about how non–football-playing young men develop their courage, character, manliness, loyalty and so on.

A provocative thesis bolstered by amusing and instructive anecdotes—but there is a flaw in the defensive line.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59420-575-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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