Therapeutic writing transmogrified—with mixed success—into a story about the ultimate urban nightmare.

THE BLEAKS

A MEMOIR

A Toronto-based novelist’s memoir about the fallout that resulted from his unexpected entanglement with the Canadian justice system.

In 2007, a belligerent drug squad raided Illidge’s (Shakespeare for the E Generation: The Page, the Stage, the Digital Age, 2007, etc.) home after a nosy neighbor tipped off police to the presence of a possible marijuana "grow-op" in the house. The author soon learned that he and his two teenage sons, the younger of whom grew a few marijuana plants for personal use, were all under arrest for “trafficking in controlled substances.” Treated like hard-core criminals and subjected to everything from police interrogations to cavity searches, the trio soon found themselves in jail. Illidge’s own life soon began a downward spiral. He and his sons became wards of the friends and family members who posted bail for them and could no longer live together or communicate with each other. Illidge’s estranged wife demanded he clean and repair the house—from which he was banned by court order—and put it up for sale. “Hankering for [his] scalp,” she also began official divorce proceedings and claimed most of her husband’s assets as her own. Low on funds, without a stable job or place to live and slapped with hefty judgments that included money owed to the bankruptcy trustee of a con-artist brother, Illidge succumbed to “the family illness” of depression. But the pills he temporarily took to help his condition only made the chaos surrounding him seem even more surreal. In the end, he emerged from the ordeal divorced and nearly broke but far savvier about his personal frailties and the Canadian government’s seemingly perverse attitudes toward marijuana and the nature of criminality. As eye-opening as this book is, Illidge’s tendency to overdescribe situations and dwell on his misfortunes slows down the narrative and will prove irritating to some readers.

Therapeutic writing transmogrified—with mixed success—into a story about the ultimate urban nightmare.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55022-985-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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