A NECESSARY END

In replaying his watch over the last six years of his parents' lives as they become ever more infirm, Taylor (Ordinary Miracles, 1993; Sins of the Father, 1989, etc.) reminds us of Shakespeare's warning that ``death, a necessary end,/Will come when it will come.'' Death is easy. What's hard is dying, as we see in this saddening memoir of how Taylor faced the challenge of aging and retired parents, once skilled professionals now on a shrunken income. A nest egg dwindles; health flakes away and flies off in small pieces. While Taylor writes with great restraint, he seldom subjects himself (or us) to that intensity or terrible immediacy once so shocking in Hemingway, who saw each detail as if on the last day of his life. A married, middle-aged, freelance New York journalist, Nick has sold a book to the movies and is writing a script that somehow seems to support his endless plane trips to North Carolina, Florida, and Mexico to help his parents arrange their housekeeping and finances. Most frustrating to him is that no act of his—however sensitive and keenly thought through—really fulfills his parents' needs or brings about a sense of lasting satisfaction in him: only delayed guilt. As with trying to adjust to the minds of a pair of drunks or addicts, something's always wrong. Time after time, he must hurry back to their loving but surprised smiles as once more he lends a hand and shores up a splitting dike. Meanwhile, some of his friends go through problems much like his, so that we see a culture of middle-aged earners caring for parents stricken with Alzheimer's or worse. As one reads, and as Nick focuses on his parents, a reader can't help foreseeing infirmities of one's own. The ``necessary end'' has some horrible side effects before it comes. A heartbreaker about caring, with no easy answers.

Pub Date: March 3, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-47102-5

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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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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