Marked by sorrow and disappointment, but plenty of fascinating adventures. An exemplary biography, of profound interest to...

THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE

VOLUME III: 1955-1991

The third and final volume of Sherry’s superb life of the English novelist and man of letters, a monumental work published over the last 15 years.

The first moments of Sherry’s (Literature/Trinity Univ.) last installment find Graham Greene in middle age, and none too happy about it. His energies seem boundless: he is being published regularly, earning a fine income, smoking opium, being sought out for opinion and commentary. But the world is wearying Greene: here, ten years after the end of WWII and his work in the shadow world of military intelligence, he seems depressed at the apparent lack of adventure that has come with his success. Writes Sherry: “Journeys were Greene’s means of controlling depression. He often came out of melancholy with a sudden eagerness for new ventures.” The new ventures Sherry describes are many, worthy of volumes of their own (some of which Greene got around to writing): he travels to Vietnam, finding the material for The Quiet American, and to Cuba, capturing the Fidelista revolution in Our Man in Havana and, incidentally, smuggling socks and sweaters for the mountain-bound revolutionaries; he finds new love outside the house; he takes a place on the board of one of England’s best publishing houses and becomes a vigorous editor, acquiring Charlie Chaplin’s memoirs for publication. Chalk all this up to the legendary, emulation-worthy Greene. Sherry gives us another Greene, though, who is rather more disagreeable, beset, as a Catholic, by doubts over the existence of God, given to quarreling with protégés and admirers over trivial matters, so convinced of his greatness that he thinks nothing of overriding his fellow judges in a literary prize competition to champion a second-tier writer whose work just happens to resemble early Graham Greene. Not all shared Greene’s self-assessment, least of all the members of the Swedish Academy, who denied Greene the one thing he seemingly craved more than anything else: the Nobel Prize in literature.

Marked by sorrow and disappointment, but plenty of fascinating adventures. An exemplary biography, of profound interest to admirers of Greene’s work and to students of contemporary letters.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03142-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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