Shelden bases his conclusions on correspondence and archival research but often conjectures about what “must have” occurred....

MELVILLE IN LOVE

THE SECRET LIFE OF HERMAN MELVILLE AND THE MUSE OF MOBY-DICK

How a secret love affair inflamed Herman Melville’s fiction.

Biographer Shelden (Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, 2013, etc.) claims that Melville’s novels, including Moby-Dick, were inspired by his love for Sarah Anne Morewood, his attractive, young, married neighbor. This passionate relationship, he argues, stands as “the powerful key to unlocking his secrets,” although nearly every other Melville biographer has ignored it. Melville and Morewood met in 1850, when both were summering in the Berkshires, where she had bought property. Soon after, Melville borrowed money from his father-in-law to acquire a tract of land adjacent to the Morewoods' and moved his family from New York. There, “in the grip of his own obsession,” he wrote feverishly about an obsessed captain’s hunt for an elusive whale. The novel, Shelden argues, “is the result of the author’s own extended dive into the depths of his life.” Morewood, pretty, restless, and flirtatious, sounds like a version of Madame Bovary. Leaving her boring husband to his business, she loved hiking, parties, and champagne. The famed physician Oliver Wendell Holmes, also an admirer of hers, observed her effect on Melville. Holmes’ novel Elsie Venner, “a tale of characters searching for love and willing to do anything for it,” offered a “revealing glimpse into Melville’s secret life.” Shelden argues that Melville himself exposed the affair in Pierre, about “an idealistic youth whose life is forever changed by his romance with a dark, mysterious beauty” who claims to be his secret half sister and lures him away from his “uncomplicated” girlfriend, just as Morewood lured Melville away from his wife. The emotionally fraught novel, with its inexplicable theme of incest, proved too much for readers and ended Melville’s trajectory to fame.

Shelden bases his conclusions on correspondence and archival research but often conjectures about what “must have” occurred. Nonetheless, he offers a provocative portrait of the canonical writer and his world.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-241898-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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