An absorbing, well-written memoir by a brave adventurer who discovered her own life.

My Journey Through War and Peace

EXPLORATIONS OF A YOUNG FILMMAKER, FEMINIST AND SPIRITUAL SEEKER

In this memoir, a documentary filmmaker describes her dramatic journeys, both outward and inward.

In 1982, Burch (Vital Sensation Manual Unit 4: Miasms in Homeopathy, 2013, etc.) had just turned 21. Eager for adventure, she arranged a freelance assignment in Afghanistan to film the mujahedeen rebellion against Soviet invaders. There, she discovered a paradoxical peace amid war. As shells destroyed the building where, minutes before, she’d been filming, “I felt calm,” she writes. “I was pulled into a sense of timelessness, weightlessness, absoluteness.” Adventure helped numb Burch’s anxiety, much of it rooted in childhood chaos: a disastrous fire, parental conflict and divorce, and a brilliant, depressed, alcoholic mother prone to pronouncements like “If you don’t clean this couch now, I will kill myself.” (Sylvia Plath, “an icon in our home,” was her mother’s friend and college roommate.) Burch describes her bold ventures, including her return to Afghanistan, the creative vigor of living in a SoHo loft with fellow artists, and her exploration of her sexuality. She forged a better relationship with her mother and filmed in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But Burch’s efforts were often attended by disillusion: broadcast news outlets wanted only footage that would bolster preconceived stories, and egos got in the way: “I was so caught up in the drama, I lost all perspective,” she says at one point. Realizing that achieving her external goals required an inward shift, Burch began working with a Gurdjieff spiritual guide, which brought her peace that didn’t require braving a war zone. Writing with sensitivity and vivid clarity about her evolving self, Burch is unafraid to expose times when she was naïve, self-centered, or judgmental. She’s also frank about her sexuality, describing a passionate encounter with Baba Fawad, a mujahedeen commander, as well as insecurities about weight. It’s fascinating, too, to read her insider details on documentary filmmaking in dangerous places, especially as a woman—for example, getting her period on horseback, without tampons or pads, while traveling with an all-male group of tribesmen.

An absorbing, well-written memoir by a brave adventurer who discovered her own life.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77-161177-0

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Mosaic Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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