THE NARROW DOOR

A MEMOIR OF FRIENDSHIP

A creative writing professor’s memoir of two profoundly intense relationships that permanently marked his life.

Lisicky (Unbuilt Projects, 2012, etc.) met novelist Denise Gess in the early 1980s when both were graduate students at Rutgers University. She was everything that he, a then-closeted gay man, was not: vivacious, funny, and “able to hold the attention of an entire group of freshmen.” But it was not until Gess’ death from cancer that he began to reflect not only on the intense emotional relationship he had with her, but also with the poet, M., whom he married and then divorced. In a nonlinear narrative that moves back and forth in time and space to focus on episodes in the lives of all three main figures, Lisicky portrays not only the details of their lives as working writers, but also the emotional ups and downs he experienced with both his friend and his lover. In the early days of his friendship with Gess, she called Lisicky “two times a day, sometimes for two or three hours at a time.” But closeness also bred competitiveness in their professional relationship, as well as a possessiveness that not only suggested the two were “a little in love with each other,” but also led to emotional betrayals on both sides. On the other hand, Lisicky’s intimate relationship with M. mirrored the unconsummated one he had with Gess in how their connection seemed to reflect “some powerful exchange of psychic materials between [them].” Yet all their closeness did not prevent his husband's eventual departure from the relationship with another man. His world upended by Gess’ illness, Lisicky realized a painful truth. The closer he got to people, the more he had to acknowledge their freedom to die and/or leave him. With empathy and emotional finesse, the author renders the fragility of interpersonal connections, and he offers insight into the complicated nature of the human heart.

Honest and compassionate.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55597-728-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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