THE HEART OF A WOMAN

Another installment in Angelou's remarkable autobiography—beginning with would-be singer Maya in 1957 California: trying commune life; moving to L.A. with teenage son Guy; playing uneasy hostess to dying Billie Holliday—a "lonely sick woman, with a waterfront mouth" who both cursed and lullabied Guy . . . and interrupted Maya's nightclub act with a mini-review ("Stop that bitch. She sounds just like my goddam mamma"). But most of this book finds Maya in N.Y., living in Brooklyn and joining the Harlem Writers Guild—a mutual-criticism group of necessary harshness: "Publishers don't care much for white writers. . . . You can imagine what they think about black ones." Little writing gets done, however, because, after one final singing fling (at the Apollo), Maya finds herself galvanized by a Martin Luther King speech: she and Godfrey Cambridge ("his white teeth were like flags of truce") organize a fundraising cabaret for King's SCLC; then, to her surprise, Maya is offered the job of Northern coordinator; and this soon leads her to South African rebel diplomat Vus Make—a sleek, charismatic hero who, on the virtual eve of Maya's wedding to a lusty bail-bondsman, sweeps her into quasi-marriage—first in NY (where Maya acts in The Blacks and leads a protest march on the UN after Lumumba's assassination) and then in Cairo, where she rebels against Vus' male-chauvinism by getting a journalism job. Finally, however, fed up with Vus' tyrannies, infidelities, and unpaid bills, Maya takes off (after braving an African-style divorce-by-debate), puts Guy in college in Ghana, and breathes a sigh of relief: "At last, I'll be able to eat the whole breast of a roast chicken by myself." Don't look for political history here: Angelou doesn't pause much for reexaminations, and some of the sociological musings are shaky (as when she explains a black teen-gang simply as a response to racism). But the mother-son relationship is touchingly explored, the fire of the times is rekindled with eloquence, and Maya herself—brandishing a pistol to defend her son or wrassling with Vus in the Waldorf Astoria lobby—remains funny, tough, and vulnerable as she keeps on surprising herself with what she can do: a great lady moving right on through a great memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1981

ISBN: 0812980328

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

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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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