An invaluable glimpse into the people and society (and two young lovers’ hearts) of the antebellum South.

The Belles of Williamsburg

THE COURTSHIP CORRESPONDENCE OF ELIZA FISK HARWOOD AND TRISTRIM LOWTHER SKINNER 1839-1849

A collection of letters between two young members (future husband and wife) of the landed elite of the South in the decades preceding the Civil War.

When, in 1839, vivacious 12-year-old Eliza Fisk Harwood embarked on a correspondence with her friend Tristrim “Trim” Skinner, a vast epistolary record was set in motion that culminated in their marriage on Feb. 19, 1849. Maillard, the volume’s editor, calls one letter in this collection “a key to Williamsburg’s gentry in the 1840s” but “an interlinear mess, a transcriber’s nightmare.” All give a vivid sense of culture, time, and place. Both Eliza and Trim came from families who were long-standing members of Southern aristocracy, and they were brought together when Trim, coming to Williamsburg to attend his freshman year at the College of William and Mary, took up lodgings at Tazewell Hall, the home of Mary Ann and Dickie Galt and their 11-year-old ward, Eliza, to whom the Galts were “entirely devoted.” Trim and Eliza became close friends, and in a few years, according to Maillard’s persuasive reading of the documents, friendship deepened into romantic love. In 1845, after a series of relationship vicissitudes, the two experienced what Maillard refers to as “the shift from familial friendship to courtship ritual”—and a large part of that ritual consisted of these eloquent and often curiously distant-seeming letters, a correspondence that reads at times like “both a society column and a social register.” We get letter after letter of Eliza’s detailing her social life, her family life, and vacations as well as lively anecdotes about people and the weather. In an 1845 letter, for example, she writes with playful sarcasm about how it makes her eyes “flash fire” to see a friend entertaining more beaus than she herself has; “I try to bear it with Christian fortitude,” she drolly reports. Trim’s slightly plodding responses tend toward more somber reminders to her of his “heart’s first wish.” In one letter from 1846, for instance, he stolidly reflects on a Christmas present he hopes to receive: “One of the blessing[s] which I covet, and which I hope you will not be unwilling for me to attain, is a more regular correspondence with you.” And Maillard throughout performs her editorial duties with an unobtrusive thoroughness that will make this a required reference work for the period.

An invaluable glimpse into the people and society (and two young lovers’ hearts) of the antebellum South.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 497

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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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