THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE

VOL. II: 1939-1955

This mid-life installment of Greene's authorized biography has all the thrills of the writer's ``entertainments'' and the emotional complexity of his serious works. Picking up from the sometimes overly exhaustive Volume One (1989), this work covers a watershed quarter-century in Greene's life and literary career (as well as in 20th-century history) with nary a dull page. Greene's personal life alone in this period—the breakdown of his marriage during the Blitz, his impassioned affair with a married American while unable to free himself of either his wife or his previous mistress—had more than enough grief for two of his best novels, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, which Sherry shows were anguished reflections of his inner life. Yet with all his interviews and access to Greene's papers, even this astute biographer finds his work more accessible than his personality (not even Greene's friends and lovers could claim full intimacy with him). This natural secrecy made Greene a perfect spy, and during WW II he worked for MI6, a division of the British Secret Intelligence Service, in West Africa and London under his lifelong friend, the Soviet double agent Kim Philby, who provided Sherry with many memories of Greene's espionage career (not always reliably, the author later determined). With the end of the war and his marriage, Greene worked for a while as a publisher and screenwriter (most notably of The Third Man), but a later love affair churned up his suicidal nature, which drew him to the Malayan Emergency, the Mau Mau rebellion, and the Indochinese war. Sherry is at his best retracing Greene's activities in Vietnam, recreating the wartime atmosphere and investigating the sources and inspirations for—as well as the distortions in—The Quiet American. Sherry's admirable work beats out even the writer's own memoirs as the definitive account of his life, although Greene remains a character impossible to penetrate satisfactorily. (51 b&w photos and 6 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-86056-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more