An intriguing but slight sociological snapshot.

THE GOLDEN FLEA

A STORY OF OBSESSION AND COLLECTING

Manhattan denizen Rips shares his passion for the Chelsea Flea Market, which used to be “one of the largest flea markets in America.”

At its zenith, the market thrived on the west side of Manhattan, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays, with buyers and sellers coming and going from abandoned parking garages, open-air lots, old office buildings, and sidewalk stands. In his third book, Rips, who lives in the Chelsea Hotel and serves as the executive director of the Art Students League of New York, focuses his compact yet detailed narrative of oddball possessions and quirky humans on a parking garage that offered merchandise from dozens of vendors. Their customers included native New Yorkers seeking bargains, tourists wandering by, “pickers” searching for underpriced treasures that could be resold for profit, and buyers who could be considered hoarders. In addition to chronicling the goings-on of the many eccentric characters that frequented the market, the author also writes about his daughter and their trips together to the flea. She seemed to enjoy herself, and many of the vendors enjoyed entertaining her. Throughout the book, Rips muses, often entertainingly, on the people he met during his forays in this unique environment, but few of his portraits feel more substantial than sketches. While he is to be commended for diligently listening to them spin their background stories—many of them likely embellished—Rips rarely verified the facts of these sagas, preferring to hear without judgment. Because the author identifies the characters only by first names and nicknames, readers may need to take the findings with a grain of salt. There’s a sometimes-pleasing surreal quality to this journey that fits the idiosyncratic landscape—in which sellers hawked everything from “paintings, lithographs and photographs” to “canes, vintage clothes, costume jewelry, tools, Asian scrolls, screens, and jade, sports memorabilia, and African art,” not to mention “stacks of crumbling newspapers and magazines”—but one wonders if Rips could have dug even deeper to produce a fuller picture of this world of lost and forgotten treasures.

An intriguing but slight sociological snapshot.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00407-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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