THE WOMAN WARRIOR

MEMOIRS OF A GIRLHOOD AMONG GHOSTS

How closely they guarded their lives, those Chinese-Americans pressing the clothes, so that we were never able to focus on them or comprehend their outlook. Concealment thwarted the gods, the author of these extraordinary memoirs reports, and their American-born children too—always trying to get things straight, to name the unspeakable. But her mother talked stories in warning, and these merged into dreams, hopes, new stories. One aunt, cast out by the family, drowned herself and her newborn bastard daughter in the well: Adultery is extravagance. Could people who hatch their own chicks and eat the embryos and the heads. . .—could such people engender a prodigal aunt? To be a woman, to have a daughter in starvation time was waste enough. But if women must be slaves, they may also be warriors (the book is hospitable to paradox) like the warrior woman Fa Mu Lan, whose story becomes the author's as—no maidenly Joan of Arc—she rides into battle with her childhood friend/ husband at her side and her infant son inside her armor. (My American life has been such a disappointment.) Her mother studies medicine and, to impress her schoolmates, routs a ghost; she yanks bones straight in a silk robe and western shoes (until my father sent for her to live in the Bronx). An elderly aunt from Hong Kong is goaded into reclaiming the husband, since remarried, who has not seen her—but has supported her—for thirty years. The tightknit story of their confrontation is the author's invention, an intricate Chinese knot like the one once proscribed to protect the knot-maker's eyes: If I had lived in China, I would have been an outlaw knot-maker. Still, she wants to go back to China to sort out what's just my childhood, just my imagination, just my family, just the movies, just living. The several strands, inseparable here, create a spirit-presence you won't soon forget.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1976

ISBN: 0679721886

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1976

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more