A breezy social history. (8-page black-and-white photo insert, not shown)

GIRL SLEUTH

NANCY DREW AND THE WOMEN WHO CREATED HER

The true story behind the creation of the resilient fictional girl detective.

Even though the Nancy Drew mysteries subsist, according to poet and critic Reha, on “formulaic dialogue, totally implausible escapes and absurd plot twists,” readers admire and identify with the character of Nancy herself: “her bravery, her style, her generosity, and her relentless desire to succeed.” The author embarks on her own bit of energetic sleuthing into the life of children’s book mogul Edward Stratemeyer, the man behind the Nancy Drew, Rover Boys and Bobbsey Twins books. In 1905, he formed the lucrative Stratemeyer Syndicate, which essentially outlined new series and handed them out to ghostwriters so that “no one would ever be the wiser about who was actually doing the writing.” The character of Nancy Drew grew out of Stratemeyer’s success with earlier titles featuring gutsy, brainy, proto-modern heroines Dorothy Dale and Ruth Fielding, as well as the mystery-solving Hardy Boys. Stratemeyer farmed out the new mystery series for girls to eager Iowa journalist Mildred Wirt, who had fashioned the Ruth Fielding titles, and plucky Miss Nancy Drew made her debut on April 28, 1930, “dressed to the nines in smart tweed suits, cloche hats, and fancy dresses.” Wirt seems to have endowed the early Nancy Drew with her own indomitable spunkiness, while the series’ later ghostwriter, Stratemeyer’s Wellesley-educated daughter Harriet, instead emphasized Nancy’s pedigree and correct bearing. (Sidekicks Bess and George were the brainchildren of Stratemeyer’s intrepid and loyal secretary, Harriet Otis Smith.) The series was an instant bestseller for Grosset & Dunlap at 50 cents per copy, and Wirt would end up writing a dozen of the titles. In an unfortunate but perhaps inevitable denouement, she eventually had to battle in court for proper recognition from Harriet Stratemeyer, who took over the syndicate after her father’s death.

A breezy social history. (8-page black-and-white photo insert, not shown)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-101041-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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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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