Like a couple of hours with Columbo, minus the genius—inessential, but still pretty good company.

JUST ONE MORE THING

Life and times of the man in the dirty raincoat.

Actor Falk’s distinctive persona is so familiar that it’s impossible to read any of this whimsical autobiography’s many bite-size chapters without hearing the man’s raspy mumble; that’s the principal source of charm here, perfectly complementing the digressive (read “unfocused”), no-big-deal account of the various jobs and colleagues that have marked Falk’s haphazard path. His career, which includes the iconic television role of Columbo (the deceptively brilliant detective—Sherlock Holmes in dumb-schlemiel drag) and stints with John Cassavetes and Neil Simon, is impressive, but Falk describes the work in a manner so unpretentious and offhand that he undercuts the justification for writing an autobiography in the first place. One wishes for a more in-depth account of, say, the making of Cassavetes’s seminal Husbands, but Falk is content to call the auteur a genius and leave it at that. He is reliably witty on his early career as a diffident government bureaucrat, and his indomitable independent streak is good for a number of anecdotes involving arrests in foreign lands. The Columbo sections are amusing, as Falk describes developing the detective’s mannerisms and appearance—the actor reveals much of his technique in these passages, and it is surprisingly beholden to the “outside-in” approach associated with classically trained actors, rather than the Method style suggested by the tortured improvisations that characterize Cassavetes’s work. But these insights are largely incidental. Falk admits at the outset that he fears his story will bore the reader, and his strategy is to set it down in easily digestible chunks with weirdly funny titles, such as “The Raisin Story” and “On the Role Overcoats Play in an Actor’s Career.” This approach indeed makes for a painless read, but underscores the general impression of inconsequence.

Like a couple of hours with Columbo, minus the genius—inessential, but still pretty good company.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7867-1795-5

Page Count: 280

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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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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