THE LIARS' CLUB

A MEMOIR

Some childhoods are so pitiable you have to either laugh or cry. Karr's (The Devil's Tour, not reviewed) memoir succeeds in taking the reader to both extremes. Leechfield, Tex., circa 1962, was the kind of place where kids chased behind the DDT spray truck to see who could vomit first. So it was in this home sweet homestead that the author, when she was seven, and her older sister went about the daily task of keeping their family together despite their mother's tendency for alcohol and suicidal car outings, and their father's spendthrift obsessions. Along the way there were moments of genuine fear, adolescent gross-outs, and secrets about what love can drive one to do. Karr understands the inherent power in the fine line between comedy and tragedy, and she handles such juxtapositions like a knife thrower with something to prove. A wickedly funny account of smart-alecky goofing off can suddenly bolt into a horrific remembrance of sexual abuse. She is equally skilled at recounting the tall tales that her father cooked up to amuse his friends, the group of drinking buddies from which the book takes its title. In Daddy's voice, several classically Texan yarns are spun. Karr borrows his technique, his deadpan delivery, to give her book its edge, with punchy transitions like: ``Maybe if Mother hadn't taken it in her head to shoot Hector, we'd never have got back to Texas.'' The author hints early on at a desire to underpin her story with the unfolding atrocity of Vietnam, but the tactic is ultimately dropped. This family's battle creates all the destruction one can handle, and the fact that mustard gas finds its way into the body of a relative is truly creepy enough. With a sure hand, and the stamina that comes from growing up unlucky, Karr digs deep into her youth and hits black gold. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-85053-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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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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