A readable, balanced portrait of a great humanist.



Prolific English biographer White (Leonardo, 2000, etc.) delineates in lively fashion the less than saintly life of the Christian apologist, children’s author, Luddite, and fuddy-duddy Oxford don.

Best known for his Chronicles of Narnia, a charming allegorical adventure disguising a complex Christian hierarchy, Lewis was first and foremost a scholar of medieval and Renaissance English literature, a tutor at Oxford for most of his life, and a drinking comrade of fellow don J.R.R. Tolkien and their disputatious group of Inklings. Born Clive Staples in 1898 to middle-class Protestant parents in Belfast, young Jack (as he was known) enjoyed an insular fantasy world with his older brother until their mother’s death when he was nine. Privately tutored to enter Oxford during WWI, he made a deathbed promise to take care of a soldier friend’s mother, which turned into a 30-year relationship with Janie Moore, estranged but never divorced from her husband and a good 20 years Lewis’s senior. White offers opinionated speculation on “Mother,” as Lewis called her, with whom he lived at his Oxford home and about whom he never spoke openly; despite Lewis’s Evangelical disciples who insist it was a platonic mother-son relationship, White reminds us that “apart from his brilliance, Jack Lewis was a man like any other.” A late bloomer as a writer, Lewis began tapping into his childhood fantasy world in 1938 with the Ransom series, followed by The Screwtape Letters (correspondence between two devils) and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which in 1950 inaugurated the seven-volume Narnia series. White impishly refutes the portrait of Lewis as “St. Jack of Oxford,” frankly discussing his religious orthodoxy, elitism, and antimodernism in all forms, as well as his eyebrow-raising later liaison with American pen pal Joy Gresham. A previous biographer of Tolkien, the author also offers a thorough look at the crucial support and influence each writer had on the other’s work.

A readable, balanced portrait of a great humanist.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1376-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2004

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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 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...


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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