A perfectly pitched memoir.

WHILE THE LOCUST SLEPT

A MEMOIR

A septuagenarian member of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwa tells a harrowing tale of mistreatment and racial prejudice as he movingly recalls his years as a ward of the state and an indentured laborer in Minnesota during the 1930s.

Razor’s memories of working on a farm complement his recollections of the St. Paul orphanage in which the state placed him after he was abandoned by his alcoholic father when only ten months old. (His mother, who suffered from depression, had been placed in an asylum.) The orphanage was a Dickensian institution bent on teaching by punishment rather than reward. With the exceptions of a kindly doctor and a young assistant, the staff was sadistic, ill-educated, and unsympathetic. Razor recalls how when he was seven years old, the husband of one matron, holding him by an arm and leg, whirled him around until he became unconscious and had to be hospitalized. Another employee beat him savagely with a broomstick, calling him a “deceitful Injun.” One night while he was in bed, a matron in an insane rage attacked him with a hammer, causing injuries so severe that he was in hospital for more than a month. In early adolescence he ran away with two friends, but they were eventually caught, starving and unwashed, and brought back. Though Razor enjoyed studying and was an honor student, at 15 he was put to work on a farm. He was supposed to be paid for his labor and sent to school, but he never saw any wages, and his education came second to the needs of the farmer, who beat Peter so brutally that he ran away. Officials finally recognized the boy’s plight and found him a good home. Though he exposes the reality of a system that essentially legalized child abuse, Razor somehow manages to control his justifiable anger.

A perfectly pitched memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87351-401-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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