A potent book that revels in the author’s truthful experiences while maintaining the jagged-grain, keeping-it-a-100, natural...

SURVIVAL MATH

NOTES ON AN ALL-AMERICAN FAMILY

A dynamic, impressive debut memoir from the Whiting Award–winning author of The Residue Years (2013).

Following his award-winning debut novel, Jackson (Writing/New York Univ.) looks back on the specific chaos of historical, cultural, and familial forces that, despite the continued presence of open wounds, allowed them a chance at redemption in their home of Portland, Oregon. As he writes, “there’s the history that’s hit the books, what for all time should live in its ledgers, but…I must keep alive the record of where we lived and how we lived and what we lived and died for,” so it doesn’t slip “into the ether.” The author chronicles the complicated influences that have shaped his life, weaving through the Reaganomics era and its attendant uneven burden on black families, which led to expanding precariousness and subsequent street-scheming and entrenched pipe-dreaming. In his lyric memoir in essays, Jackson navigates family strife, crime, guns, toxic masculinity, substance abuse and addiction, and the meaning of “hustle,” among countless other timely topics. The author also makes it clear that there’s no room for pity, neither for his own choices nor those of his mother, who struggled with addiction, or the collection of black men he homages as the “composite Pops” who raised him. These are powerful stories of survival in the face of tremendous odds, rendered in a consistently intriguing hybrid of the street-cool hip-hop mathematics of Mos Def and the bluesy, ancestry-minded prison-cell work of Etheridge Knight (especially “The Idea of Ancestry”). The narrative hits its peak when Jackson motions beyond the tenuous spectacle of a moment to understand what came before it and to hope about what deliverance might come after it even while admitting, sometimes ashamedly so, that he is still wrestling with it all.

A potent book that revels in the author’s truthful experiences while maintaining the jagged-grain, keeping-it-a-100, natural storytelling that made The Residue Years a modern must-read.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3170-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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