Refreshing and sassy, with more than a dash of tenderness thrown in.

THE SLIPPERY YEAR

A MEDITATION ON HAPPILY EVER AFTER

A young-adult author reflects on the realities of middle age.

At 44, Gideon (Pucker, 2006, etc.) looked at the various roles she’d assumed as the younger twin in a family of four girls, wife of a loving husband and stay-at-home mother of a sweet nine-year-old boy, and found herself guiltily asking, “Is this all there is?” The author’s memoir, a hilariously probing account of personal growth and stasis, is Gideon’s answer to that existential query. After her husband purchased a souped-up 4x4 van complete with a “cattle-guard contraption that must have been handy when plowing through herds of wildebeests in the Serengeti but is presumably unnecessary in the suburbs,” Gideon began an aggressive inventory of her life. Looking first at her marriage, she quickly determined that perhaps she was the one in crisis, noting how her husband had maintained something of the spontaneity of their younger years. In their 20s, she writes, “Our needs were simple. We lived dangerously, which is to say we were up for anything. We didn’t think about what things cost. We thought only about the cost of not doing things. Which is exactly why—I suddenly understand—my husband has bought the van for us.” Such epiphanies abound in Gideon’s account, and the author takes those small lessons and effectively analyzes them in ways useful to a wide readership. Women in particular will appreciate her musings on motherhood—“There comes a time in every mother’s life when it becomes very clear that your child is a much better person than you are”—and the healthy dose of self-loathing that informs the author’s sarcasm and warm sense of irony as she reckons with her burgeoning eccentricities.

Refreshing and sassy, with more than a dash of tenderness thrown in.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-27067-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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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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