If you’re a fellow traveler, this is your book. If not, you likely won’t pick it up.

CAN'T IS NOT AN OPTION

MY AMERICAN STORY

South Carolina’s governor stakes out her red-blooded American credentials in a by-the-numbers memoir.

Haley, as was reported back when she briefly made the news, was born Randhawa, the child of Punjabi immigrants. Since her father wore a turban and her kin looked different from the other denizens of the Piedmont, she suffered all the expected abuse and racism of the time and place. Apparently she never considered the political leanings of her tormentors in that redder-than-red state, though, because she jumped into GOP politics once she had the self-described epiphany that people listened to her when she talked. Perhaps that affiliation was merely the product of some perceived sense of loyalty, for the sense we get is that Randhawa/Haley has long gone along to get along: “I got a scholarship to go to Clemson to study textile management. Cotton, wool, and silk weren’t really my areas of interest, but I thought, Fine, I’ll do it. I just wanted to go to Clemson.” Haley’s approach to politicking is homespun and commonsensical: Ply the audience with Krispy Kremes, win over legislators by doing small favors, profess to love “the people.” On the personal front, she allows that she doesn’t watch TV or read newspapers at home so that her children aren’t exposed to the meanness of politics (so much for education). There’s scarcely a moment that approaches originality in these pages. Every note seems scripted, including her protestations that it’s Washington that keeps her from doing her job: Obama bad, Reagan good, etc. Haley’s prose rises above a monotonous whisper only when she gets on the subject of the Tea Party: “That’s what I love most about the Tea Party. It’s drawing the line on government arrogance and overspending with the taxpayers’ money.”

If you’re a fellow traveler, this is your book. If not, you likely won’t pick it up.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59523-085-0

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Sentinel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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