Like Cave’s growling music, this book isn’t for everyone, but who doesn’t like the specter of “a gloop of ectoplasm spurting...

THE SICK BAG SONG

The gloomy Aussie rock star ponders the ways of the road in this blend of prose and poetry.

The sick bag: until the airlines decide to trim the cost, every seatback contains one. Constantly airborne but not prone to motion sickness, Cave (The Death of Bunny Munro, 2009) chose to use the device as an impromptu notebook to record a tour of 2014. “You must take the first step alone,” his guardian angel intoned as, packed into a van brought to a crawl on the highway by a decapitated accident victim, he tried to get some sleep. A few cities later, the author had a theme: a man at a German restaurant in Milwaukee served him “a pretzel big as a severed human head.” It’s not the most appetizing vision, but Cave’s sick bag becomes a medicine bundle of a kind, a storeroom of such images, to say nothing of books by Patti Smith and songs by Elvis Presley and company. The author hovers above the Platonic domains of beauty and ugliness, the former perhaps best represented by Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, who waves his manicured hand across an idyllic English landscape and confesses to not having written a song in years, saying, “there is nothing to write about.” A devotee of grimmer venues, Cave surveys the loveliness of a Canadian river (“pleasant,” “faultless,” and “fabulous” are three of the glowing adjectives that come in quick succession) and then rushes back to the hotel to write a poem that begins, “I was born in a puddle of blood wanting everything.” Well, at least the head remains on the body. Along the way, Cave channels Allen Ginsberg (“Hop in my sick bag! All you wild Texas girls!”), casts a sideways look or two at rock-star fame and the music business, and generally amuses himself with bouquets of words.

Like Cave’s growling music, this book isn’t for everyone, but who doesn’t like the specter of “a gloop of ectoplasm spurting through the orange air”?

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-81465-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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