As with many collections, the quality varies, but the best of these heartfelt essays bear powerful witness to suffering,...

A SOLEMN PLEASURE

TO IMAGINE, WITNESS, AND WRITE

Essays in praise of writing and faith.

Journalist, fiction writer, and teacher Pritchard (Creative Writing/Arizona State Univ.; Palmerino, 2014, etc.) collects 15 pieces that testify to her belief that art is “a form of active prayer” and writing literature, a “sacred vocation.” The author addresses several essays to aspiring writers. In “Spirit and Vision,” she exhorts writers to think of their lives as “a form of perpetual perishing, that as you lose yourselves in devotion and discipline to your work, you will attain the Beloved and begin to perceive the divine reality in all.” Another essay recounts her search for a regional voice as indelible as those of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor, writers “inextricably linked to place.” In the brief but potent essay “Elephant in the Dark,” Pritchard underscores the importance of a story’s point of view, asking, “which character owns the story most deeply?” A few pieces are slight memoirs: the author recalls her experience researching at the British Library; teaching British, Irish, and American writing students at Warwick University; and reflecting on why she came to admire Georgia O’Keeffe. Longer pieces are more substantive. “Finding Ashton,” a moving piece with a tragic ending, recounts her friendship with a female soldier that began when Pritchard was embedded with troops in Afghanistan. “ ‘Still, God Helps You’: Memories of a Sudanese Child Slave” reveals the harrowing story of 33-year-old William Mawwin, whom the author met when he was a student in Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives. When she discovered that he had to drop out of community college due to financial difficulties, she heard a “voice” that commanded her to pay for his tuition and books. In the course of many interviews, he related his experiences of unspeakable degradation and cruelty as a child slave.

As with many collections, the quality varies, but the best of these heartfelt essays bear powerful witness to suffering, compassion, and transcendence.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-934137-96-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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