A profound slice of “uncut opium, pure memory.”

HOUSE ON THE RIVER

A SUMMER JOURNEY

Poet/novelist/essayist Rapoport (A Woman’s Book of Grieving, 1994, etc.) takes a boat journey into the benediction of the past.

There’s no time to lose as the author rounds up a company of relatives, some working on their 60s and 70s, to make a pilgrimage by houseboat up the Trent-Severn Waterway back to their summer place in Bobcaygeon, Canada. The house no longer belongs to the family, so this will be a drive-by, and Rapoport will fill it with as many digressions as there are waterpaths in the Thousand Islands. She keeps the story in the moment, marveling at a double rainbow and the stars above a place called Burleigh Falls: “happy, trying to memorize the texture of each minute, convinced I shall not know such a time again, an oasis of untainted plenty,” while knowing that, “for me, memory is tangible, always present. My recollections are objects, available to scrutinize, to savor, even to alter.” She wants to taste a measure of what she once felt there at her grandmother’s place, and so the story is drawn ineluctably back to the dreaminess of those perfumed summer days. While the town has its psycho-geographical intensity, the memoir pivots around the family. Rapoport elegantly delineates the Judaic terrain, a temperate ground that scorned the ideologues and felt sorrow for the lapsed and that took delight in devotion and ritual, in knowledge and wisdom. She gives herself over to the dominion of emotion in the undertaking of this return, “like a wonder of nature to which people flock, their faces rapt, the water endlessly falling, stronger than death.” Stirringly, this involves saying good-bye: “Only if you acknowledge parting, embrace it without flinching, can you leave well. If you deny its imminence, the agony of farewell is never subdued.” There are some flinches, though, and they are powerful, compressed to the point at which gemstones are made.

A profound slice of “uncut opium, pure memory.”

Pub Date: July 13, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4887-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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 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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