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COLLECTED PIECES

A charmless collection of 37 prose pieces (including essays, reviews, dialogues, even obituaries) by the Pulitzer Prizewinning composer and writer (Knowing When to Stop: A Memoir, 1994, etc.). Some are too short to have much impact: A piece on Ravel and Debussy is only five paragraphs long, consisting of program notes for a song recital. Others have more heft, including an essay exploring Debussy's influence on Bart¢k and Stravinsky, and a celebration of W.H. Auden. Ultimately, though, these pieces are mainly about Rorem. One learns that ``as a kid I not only loved Josephine Baker, I wanted to be her when I grew up.'' And that he feels at times as if ``Culture no longer existed, and that Learning, hand in hand with nuanced creativity, was hiding underground.'' (This reflection follows his observation that the New York Times Book Review and Vogue don't call anymore.) Rorem's two appreciations of Cocteau, clearly a great influence in his life, seem wildly exaggerated in their praise and terribly selective in their recitation of Cocteau's personal history. No mention is made of Cocteau's flagrant sucking up to the Nazis during the occupation of France; as a result, Rorem's description of Cocteau's postwar despair, attributed to a fickle public, seems a somewhat misleading gloss. His tributes to the departed often seem rather flat. Dawn Powell, in her recently published diaries, tells us more about Elizabeth Ames, the longtime director of Yaddo, in one precise page than Rorem does in six. There are, of course, some rewards in all the chatter: a fine limerick penned by Rorem's father after attending an incomprehensible lecture by Arnold Schoenberg; a portrait of a young Pierre Boulez serving as a rehearsal pianist in a run-through of Samuel Barber's violin concerto, attended by the caustic Barber; the recollections of Dr. Lox, who attended both Bart¢k and Stravinsky on their deathbeds. Overall, though, a petty scolding of those of whom Rorem disapproves, and a roaring tribute to himself.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-82249-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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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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