This engaging debut fulfills her confident prediction.

BLEAKER HOUSE

CHASING MY NOVEL TO THE END OF THE WORLD

On a remote island, a young writer assesses her talents and her dreams.

Completing an MFA degree at Boston University, Stevens was awarded a three-month fellowship to travel anywhere in the world to work on the novel she was determined to write. Deciding that she needed complete solitude, she chose to travel 9,000 miles from her native England to the Falkland Islands—in winter. In her delightful literary debut, Stevens chronicles life among the penguins and caracara birds on Bleaker Island, population 3, where for weeks she was the only inhabitant. “I wanted to find out everything about myself,” she confesses, “not just the profound and often boring things to do with childhood memories and self-respect, but also the practical stuff, like what my first book will actually be about.” But that revelation eluded her as she concocted a trite narrative about a young man who travels to the Falklands in search of a father he thought was dead. Stevens intersperses chapters from the novel-in-progress and, as she readily admits, it is indeed dreadful. The memoir, though, is fresh and spirited. She spent several weeks in Stanley, the Falklands’ capital, a desolate city with “no cinema, no theatre, no evening entertainment” except for seven pubs. “By ten o’clock most nights, everyone is exceedingly drunk,” she learned. And often they drive their Land Rovers into one of many deep drainage ditches. Stevens was eyed with distrust by residents who believe “that foreigners who come in and ask questions are bad news.” Journalists and Argentinians are especially suspect. The owners of the guesthouse on Bleaker Island were welcoming, though, and Stevens learned how to spin yarn from sheep’s wool, herd pregnant cattle, and find her way home in a fierce storm. Lively flashbacks round out a memoir that might have been too tightly focused on desolation and failure. At the end of her island experience, she reports happily, “I have freed myself of a bad book. I will write a better one now.”

This engaging debut fulfills her confident prediction.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-54155-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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