Love stories are easy targets, but no one will scoff at the genuine and cheering affection depicted so generously here.

A THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE

AN UNEXPECTED ROMANCE

A luxurious story of sudden love, done properly, from cook/journalist de Blasi (Regional Foods of Northern Italy, not reviewed, etc.).

Middle-aged and divorced, with two grown children, living in St. Louis (Missouri, that is), de Blasi goes to Venice and meets the gaze of a man while having a drink in a restaurant with friends. He asks her for a rendezvous, and she agrees, unexpectedly, touched by the same whatever that has moved him. The rest is history, and a great story. The man, Fernando—no smooth-talker, a bit of a frump, awkward, yet a romantic—comes for a weeklong visit to St. Louis, and by the time he leaves, de Blasi has promised to move to Venice to be with him. She has few second thoughts, and her friends urge her on: “If there is even the possibility that this is real love,” one of them asks her, “could you dare to imagine turning away from it?” She doesn't, and what follows are the next 1,000 days, her game immersion in Italian culture to her wedding to their move south to Tuscany. De Blasi relates it all in a voice at once worldly and sensuous, unsentimental and aware of what it means to have such good fortune. Not all is as rosy as the Venetian morning light, though; she suffers a loss of her natural ebullience, “the quick strangling of spontaneity for the sake of a necessary deception that Italians call ‘elegance’,” though she doesn't allow it to dampen her vitality, nor does she let Fernando—who eats like a bird and whose kitchen is “a cell with a Playskool stove”—diminish her love of food. Rather, she binds her love of Fernando to her love of food, like a bouquet garni, in one long delicious engagement running throughout this ode, from cappuccino and apricot pastry to pumpkin gnocchi in cream and sage.

Love stories are easy targets, but no one will scoff at the genuine and cheering affection depicted so generously here.

Pub Date: June 7, 2002

ISBN: 1-56512-321-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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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