Bishop shared with Marianne Moore a “near obsession with accuracy of detail and precision of language.” This fine biography...

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ELIZABETH BISHOP

A MIRACLE FOR BREAKFAST

A new biography of one of the most celebrated American poets of the 20th century.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) wasn’t prolific—she published only 100 poems during her 40-year career—but she had a lasting impact on American letters. Pulitzer Prize winner Marshall (Writing, Literature, and Publishing/Emerson Coll.; Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, 2013, etc.) was one of the aspiring poets Bishop taught in her final “verse-writing” class at Harvard in 1977. The experience was so profound that, upon discovering a trove of letters after Bishop’s “close friend” Alice Methfessel died in 2009, Marshall set about to write this biography. The result is a sharp portrait of the tragedies and other influences that shaped Bishop’s life and career. Bishop was only eight months old when her father died. After her mother was hospitalized for mental illness, Bishop was shuttled between her maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia, a place she loved, and her paternal grandparents in Worcester, Massachusetts. After these early scenes, Marshall documents Bishop’s maturation as a writer; her struggles with alcoholism; her 17 years living in Brazil with her partner, architect Lota de Macedo Soares; her many affairs; and her relationships with such writers as Robert Lowell and Mary McCarthy. Best of all are Marshall’s analyses of Bishop’s poems, including “Song for the Rainy Season,” “In the Waiting Room,” and the book’s subtitle. The interludes in which Marshall tells her own stories may be a distraction to some readers, but the chapters on Bishop are written with often chilling exactness, as when Marshall describes the uncle who drew young Elizabeth’s bath and gave her “an unusually thorough washing” or the polio-stricken admirer who killed himself after Bishop rejected him. His suicide note read, “Elizabeth. Go to hell.”

Bishop shared with Marianne Moore a “near obsession with accuracy of detail and precision of language.” This fine biography demonstrates the magnitude of Bishop’s achievements without ignoring her flaws.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-61730-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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