Inspiring recollections of love, literature, and a search for meaning.

MEANING A LIFE

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

An expanded edition of a 1978 memoir about poetry and one’s purpose in midcentury America.

Originally published by Black Sparrow Press and now saved from obscurity, this sonorous autobiography (and only prose publication) from painter and poet Oppen (Poems & Transpositions, 1980, etc.) chronicles the lives of two literary soul mates. Born in 1908 in Kalispell, Montana, the author grew up with a desire not only to leave her rural lifestyle but to pursue a lifelong conversation, learning “as much as we are able of the universe we are part of.” She went to Oregon State University, where she met her future husband, George; although she was expelled after their first date for breaking curfew, their bond was cast. “Our joined lives,” she recalls, “seem[ed] to us both choice and inevitability.” Oppen’s narrative shifts seamlessly into a collective memoir as she chronicles the couple’s travels from San Francisco to New York, Paris, and Mexico, tested on their way by the hardships of World War II. Of their many travels, Oppen quotes Sherwood Anderson: “we wanted to know if we were any good out there.” Although George won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1969, Mary’s memoir is by no means in his shadow; their love and intellectual union is rhapsodically mutual and an inspiring achievement to behold. Midcentury poetry aficionados will enjoy another layer: George was part of the “objectivist” poetry movement, and Charles Reznikoff and Louis Zukofsky appear throughout the Oppens’ travels. While these poets challenged the conceptual side of their craft, Mary looked to the entire literary canon for her voice. On Virginia Woolf, she writes, “Virginia herself found in her writing what life meant to her, and reading her works I found a little more of what life meant to me.” The author divined meaning and guidance from the literary lives around her and channeled those forces into a passionate memoir that will continue to resound with readers even decades after its publication.

Inspiring recollections of love, literature, and a search for meaning.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2947-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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