A provocative, evocative blend of memoir, literary history and lyrical travel writing.

THE TRIP TO ECHO SPRING

ON WRITERS AND DRINKING

What can we learn from the sodden stories of six gifted but alcoholic writers? Much—and maybe not enough.

Freelance journalist Laing, (To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface, 2011), who has a history of alcoholism in her own family, provides an enlightening look at the struggles of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, John Berryman and Raymond Carver—six men (she explains why she included no women) whose careers and lives were shaken and shortened by their addiction to alcohol. She notes that she selected them, among other things, because their lives intersected in places. Laing, who lives in England, decided to visit key sites in these writers’ lives and to do so, as much as possible, by train. Throughout, she comments—sometimes quite eloquently—about the scenery in and outside her rail car. Laing also evinces great familiarity with the principal texts of her writers, including their published and unpublished journals, letters and other relevant documents. She also instructs us about the effects of alcohol on the brain (including the devastating destruction of memory) and the rest of the body, as well as the social behavior of heavy drinkers, and she sketches the history and strategies of Alcoholics Anonymous and of other ways to battle the disease. Since we know the sorry fates of all these writers, there is an almost unbearable poignancy about Laing’s journey to sites of meltdowns and suicides. She wanders into bars the writers had frequented, looks at their residences in New York, New Orleans, Key West, Port Angeles and elsewhere, and continually tries to imagine the men in these settings. She ends in kind of a hard place: with the axiomatic message that alcoholics need to take charge of their lives and just stop. These six guys didn’t find that too easy.

A provocative, evocative blend of memoir, literary history and lyrical travel writing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-03956-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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