Even when he’s driving at cruising speed, Chabon takes his readers for an enjoyable ride.

POPS

FATHERHOOD IN PIECES

A compact collection of thematically linked essays, perfectly timed for Father’s Day.

Acclaimed novelist Chabon (Moonglow, 2016, etc.) takes a breezy approach in these meditations on fatherhood. The author demonstrates subtly how his own relationship with his father, whom he plainly loves but finds removed and difficult, has influenced his relationships with his children. Will his kids ever write, as he does in the powerful title essay that concludes the collection, that their father “will in other ways disappoint, disillusion, or unfavorably surprise me over the coming decades”? Not if he can help it, though he recognizes that the child-father relationship is fraught with challenges and is perhaps inherently problematic. Though he loves baseball, Chabon finds himself discouraging his son from playing for some of the same reasons his own father prevented him from playing it (pressure, failure, parents behaving like jerks). Yet he ultimately permitted his son to join—throughout, he is a very permissive parent, more permissive than his father’s generation was likely to be—and his son had a miserable time. This caused the father to question his own lifelong devotion to the sport. His lament about kids' no longer having sandlot pickup games is by no means original, but rarely has it been expressed so well: “I got reminded, every game, that this was the world my children live in: the world in which the wild watershed of childhood has been brought fully under control of the adult Corps of Engineers.” The author combines perfect pitch of tone with an acute eye for detail, whether reporting on his 13-year-old son’s unlikely emergence as a fashion savant—“where’d you get this kid?” designer John Varvatos once asked him. “I really have no idea,” responded the author—or trying to navigate his way through reading Huckleberry Finn aloud to his children without repeating a word that makes him recoil.

Even when he’s driving at cruising speed, Chabon takes his readers for an enjoyable ride.

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-283462-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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