Fascinating tales, analyzed at times to excess.

SAVAGE GIRLS AND WILD BOYS

A HISTORY OF FERAL CHILDREN

British professor Newton vents a ten-year obsession, stemming from his Ph.D. dissertation, by examining six celebrated cases of so-called feral children.

Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome, are seen by the author as emblematic of the mythic mystery surrounding stories of infants supposedly nurtured in the wild by animals. But not all feral children were raised by wolves: the lost and abandoned, those stuffed into closets, pigsties, or henhouses for years on end by abusive or psychotic “guardians” all initially present society with the same tragic and, it seems, irresistibly exploitable circumstances. In some of the cases Newton delves into, the discovered child could not speak and never fully acquired language; in others, the facility remained from earlier childhood and almost inevitably led to charges of fraud and duplicity that, in the end, transmuted one kind of suffering into another. All of these stories (and others mentioned in passing) are intrinsically fascinating, but the author leans toward intellectual meandering that can take the edge off his revelations. In the case of Peter, the 18th-century “wild boy” brought to England from Germany, for example, Newton’s speculations on the involvement of writers Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe and their reflections on the matter consume entire pages. He touches a nerve, however, in summing up the stark fact that in almost all of these instances, spanning several centuries to the present day, no one could be found who would simply care for the lost child without serving some vested interest. Thankfully, that we get a seemingly happy ending for contemporary wild child Ivan Mishukov, whose story appears in the beginning. The four-year-old Muscovite, who took to the streets in 1996 with a pack of dogs that actually kept the cops at bay while he stole food from restaurant kitchens and eventually “promoted” him to pack leader, is now back in school and progressing normally.

Fascinating tales, analyzed at times to excess.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30093-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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