Brisk, sharp, and elegant.

ON THE WING

A YOUNG AMERICAN ABROAD

Film critic and memoirist Sayre (Previous Convictions, 1995) recalls her astonishing circle of acquaintances in mid-1950s London.

“Like millions of young Americans with knapsacks and bicycles,” she writes, Sayre headed to England at 22 to find what London might hold. There her resemblance to any typical American youth ends. The daughter of a New Yorker writer, she was soon taken up by her parents’ London friends (a cross-section of the period’s intelligentsia that few 22-year-olds could ever dream of meeting) and enjoyed a five-year stay in the company of history makers. Her first apartment came courtesy of Arthur Koestler, Tyrone Guthrie hired her to research scripts for his theater company, critic John Davenport helped her navigate the London literary scene, and A.J. Liebling became her dinner companion. In the wrong hands, such a tale could be insufferably smug; happily, Sayre is a charming raconteur with a light comic touch that comes into play when she recalls such incidents as Graham Greene, outraged by a savage review from Liebling, running in circles around her and a companion who had been seen with Liebling earlier in the evening. Interleaved with tales of stars—Katherine Hepburn grousing about a friend’s rusty garden tools, Ingrid Bergman’s musings on Casablanca’s two final scenes—is fine political history. An extended chapter on the blacklisted Hollywood community gives vivid insight to the motivations of the exiles and provides an excellent précis of what was happening in the artistic community back home, long before most Americans had a comprehensive view of the anticommunist battle. “All this history was new to me. . . . About twenty years passed before it was publicly discussed in my own country.” Sayre is not above the tasty details, however; she lards her entire narrative with descriptions of who wore what and how their houses were decorated.

Brisk, sharp, and elegant.

Pub Date: June 5, 2001

ISBN: 1-58243-144-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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