Not Smith’s best work—fine for devotees but pretty thin gruel for the uninitiated.

DEVOTION

Much-honored rock goddess and writer Smith (M Train, 2015, etc.) returns with a hurried meditation on miscellaneous deep things, including the title topic.

Where Just Kids (2010) was alive with bohemian exuberance and M Train was one long product-placement vehicle, the latest seems like a knocked-off magazine piece for some vaguely spiritual enterprise. At the core of this slender volume, part of the publisher’s Why I Write series, is a love story, of sorts, concerning an Estonian skater who bears more than a passing resemblance to the young Horses-era Smith: “She was small with porcelain skin and thick dark hair with severely cut fringe.” Every idea she has of herself is in complete relation and devotion to skating; “I excelled in school,” she intones, “yet nothing before skating gave me the tools to express the inexpressible.” Naturally, the unflinching Eugenia had to make a tough choice, and guess what she stopped doing? In memoir-ish vignettes bracketing this story, Smith writes of the French martyr Simone Weil, to whom she directs a poem with a rather awful couplet about Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (surely Weil deserves better); of visiting Albert Camus’ home and being given time alone with the manuscript of The First Man, with its “unflinching unity with his subject”; of surrealists and anarchists and travels here and there. Sometimes Smith catches a poetic wave and rides it capably, as when she writes, “it occurs to me that the young look beautiful as they sleep and the old, such as myself, look dead.” It’s not the profoundest thought she’s ever expressed, but it’s nicely rendered all the same. Not so many other passages, though—e.g., can a monotone be lilting?

Not Smith’s best work—fine for devotees but pretty thin gruel for the uninitiated.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-21862-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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