Painstakingly detailed at times, this quiet memoir is saved by Miller's deftly placed literary references, which offer an...

WHAT THEY SAVED

PIECES OF A JEWISH PAST

A literature professor searches for her roots after her father's death, uncovering an intricate portrait of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family.

Miller (English/Graduate Center, CUNY; But Enough About Me: Why We Read Other People’s Lives, 2002, etc.) was so distanced from her father's side of the family that, when she divorced, she adopted her mother's maiden name, rather than returning to Kipnis, her original surname. Though her parents were married and her father was always a consistent figure in her life, the author grew up close with her maternal relatives and almost entirely estranged from the Kipnis clan. Of particular curiosity were the uncle and first cousin that she'd never met. After her father died, Miller discovered a stash of old photographs and letters that piqued her curiosity: Who were the Kipnises, and why were they not a part of her life? To find out, she began deciphering clues, translating letters, tracking down army records, identifying long-dead figures in old photographs, connecting in person with her aging cousin and his family and eventually traveling back to Eastern Europe. What emerges is a story that will seem familiar to many Jewish families scattered across the diaspora: two sons carrying the pressures of their immigrant parents and responding differently to their freedom and opportunities. As with most, there are several skeletons in the Kipnis closet—suicide, divorce in a time when it was rare, womanizing and even some potential ties to the mob. But more than any particular scandal, Miller was shocked by the degree to which she became entrenched in her family's story, with each answered question not satiating but rather fueling her curiosity. Ever the professor, Miller turns to fiction to understand her own narrative, channeling E.L. Doctorow, Marilynne Robinson, Aleksandar Hemon and many others to help articulate her past.

Painstakingly detailed at times, this quiet memoir is saved by Miller's deftly placed literary references, which offer an unusual, intellectual perspective on an often-told story.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8032-3001-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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