A RAGE TO LIVE

A BIOGRAPHY OF RICHARD AND ISABEL BURTON

A refreshing historical narrative, from Beryl Markham biographer Lovell. Sergeant Joe Friday would have approved of Lovell’s investigative technique: just the biographical facts, ma’am. She takes the linear route, starting at the beginning and ending at the end, which is not to say the book is without filigree or incapable of veering off into various interesting byways. Material that has been handled in any number of biographies of Richard Burton is presented here with a storyteller’s grace. One reads of his vagabond youth, when he was a hellion and snubber of authority; his sensual and intellectual hunger, his ability to sop up knowledge and languages like a sponge; the African and Arabian exploits, the sunstroke, dysentery, malaria, syphilis, agues, lameness, and blindness. And there are the controversies, with his colleague John Speke, with the prim hypocrites of Victorian England, with everybody at the British Foreign Office. Lovell does an equally thorough job with Isabel: the tony youth, the London season and the circuit of balls, through the years working and traveling with Richard. What Lovell offers that is new is acute observations (mostly the result of finding untapped caches of primary documents) regarding the nature of Richard and Isabel’s relationship (it appears, contrary to accepted folklore, to have been amorous and loving), and Richard’s sexuality and pursuit of erotica (Lovell ventures opinions only when supported by historical evidence——I confess to a sinking feeling when I see phrases such as ‘he was tortured by sexual guilt’ in any biography”). She also has some sensible things to say about Isabel’s purported torching of Richard’s manuscripts—including both copies of the erotic The Scented Garden—after his death. It is a pleasure to read someone who takes such obvious joy in her art: the broad biographical canvases, the tableaux vivants, the little mysteries that delight and vex her. The Burtons inhabit these pages, not as ghosts, but as presences. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-393-04672-9

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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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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