Readers will learn plenty about Montaigne and more about Perry.

MONTAIGNE IN BARN BOOTS

AN AMATEUR AMBLES THROUGH PHILOSOPHY

The essays of Montaigne spark midlife reflection by the rural Wisconsin–based author.

With a kidney stone as a shared affliction, Perry (The Jesus Cow, 2015, etc.) discovered an unlikely affinity with the French aristocrat, a shared humanity and spirit of discovery that bridge centuries, continents, and cultural differences. “You read Montaigne, you feel like you have a friend,” writes the author, and so readers are likely to feel about Perry, who has often drawn from his small-town life with self-deprecating humor and Midwestern common sense. That same spirit permeates his scattershot reading of Montaigne, a body of work he approaches without anything resembling academic rigor; he mainly allows one thing to lead to another, from Montaigne to commentaries on Montaigne to meditations on the author’s own life. “The desire to write about Montaigne puts me in heavy traffic on a tricycle,” writes Perry. It’s an image he likes so much that he later uses it to suggest his own limitations as a writer: “When I crack and read two pages of Dylan Thomas or Zora Neale Hurston, I understand that I am in the Tour de France on a tricycle.” Yet Perry’s refreshing candor, the essence of the personal essay, serves him well, as he opens his soul about his depression and anxiety, his marriage, his health (and hypochondria), and his recognition of the gulf between the persona he presents as a writer and performer and the person he knows (or suspects) himself to be. Though he supports himself by writing for money, and need make no apology for that, his aim here seems more like a soul-cleansing confession, like a writer talking to himself about the issues that concern him most. As he explains of his reading of Montaigne, “we only come to understand ourselves over time and then never fully. He was less interested in drawing conclusions about himself than having a conversation with himself. The dialogue would end only in death.”

Readers will learn plenty about Montaigne and more about Perry.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-223056-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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