A brief but impressive debut collection.

ROAD TRIP

A series of essays delicately evoking nature’s power and mystery.

Poet Mary Oliver provides the epigraph for essayist Rozema’s lyrical debut collection: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Like Oliver—and reminiscent also of Annie Dillard and Gretel Ehrlich—Rozema meditates on wildness, living, and dying; on spirituality, transcendence, and epiphany; and on music, friendship, and longing. The roads he followed traverse the Arizona canyons where he grew up; Seattle, where he landed in 1994, “somewhat lost, or somewhat free,” after his marriage ended; the Cascades in Washington; and the rugged terrain of Alaska, where he lived in his mid-20s. A self-proclaimed “agnostic to the core,” the author recalls that in high school, as a born-again Christian, he feared missing the rapture, “the name believers give to the extraordinary moment in which Christ would sweep his righteous followers up in the twinkling of an eye.” Searching for God, he was “driven to seminary by a kind of thirst,” but he lasted only a year. Disillusioned by the church, Rozema found sacred spaces in nature: on jagged mountain peaks, in the “redemptive wilderness,” on the open road. In a sacred place, the author writes, “I feel—simultaneously—my insignificance in the universe, and my centrality in it.” Spiritual sustenance, peace, and connection often seem elusive. “I would like to enter into the freedom that comes from losing the self,” writes the author. “I would like to be fully present in each moment…freed of regrets about the past and worries about the future.” Besides exploring the geology of land and archaeology of self, Rozema chronicles his father’s loss of memory from Alzheimer’s, which left the former math professor and choirmaster disoriented and bewildered. As he lay dying, the author sat by his bedside singing hymns and recounting family stories, witnessing the mysterious moment of death, when “time and space vanish.”

A brief but impressive debut collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59709-994-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Boreal/Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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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

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