Pythonophiles will find this essential, of course. But fans of good writing should dip into these pages, too, for...

HALFWAY TO HOLLYWOOD

DIARIES 1980-1988

Renowned funnyman and world traveler Palin surveys the ruins of the British Empire and heads outward in the follow-up to Diaries 1969–1979: The Python Years (2007).

In 1980, following the release of the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian, Palin and his fellow Pythons seemed poised to conquer the American film industry, with their representative asking more than $6 million for a mere treatment for Paramount. Eight years later, as this installment in the author’s journal closes, the sextet has effectively stopped working together, and Palin is about to embark upon the global adventures that yielded Around the World in 80 DaysPole to Pole and other travelogues. In between, the author writes about all manner of things connected to the film and TV business and the more learned reaches of entertainment. He kvetches about Hollywood’s creative accounting (“The upshot is that not only will there not be a penny profit from America from a movie which was one of the top 40 grossers of the year in the US, but the earnings will hardly cover half the production cost”) and about the conception of various projects such as Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, which, despite the contributions of Sean Connery and the general merriment, Palin still wants to call Terry Gilliam’s Greed. Throughout, Palin is sharp, literate, shrewd and sometimes harsh about the people he encounters. It will not please fans of The Songlines, for instance, to learn that Palin found Bruce Chatwin “rather sneery about things in a slightly aggressive, camp way which I don’t awfully take to.” Neither might Mel Brooks forgive Palin’s description of their chance encounter, which would seem to demonstrate definitively that “Brooks has an almost pathological inability to accept competition—it’s all a reduction of his own world.”

Pythonophiles will find this essential, of course. But fans of good writing should dip into these pages, too, for Palin—Michael, not Sarah—knows his way around a book.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-68202-6

Page Count: 680

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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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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