Lively, evocative autobiographical essays.

Host of Memories

TALES OF INEVITABLE HAPPENSTANCE

Focusing Proust-like on the objects that embody memories, Lighte (Pieces of China, 2009) hosts a tour of his life, from an American Jewish upbringing to a career in China and London.

Lighte, a longtime Sinophile and J.P. Morgan banker, exploits both meanings of the title by taking on the role of solicitous tour guide—“As a hospitable host in this room, I will give a guided tour of its interior”—while curating his impressively detailed memories like precious artifacts. Lighte grew up in Florida but, after his parents’ divorce, moved with his mother to New York City. It was a family of feuds and sudden deaths, and his mother suffered periodic depressions. By contrast, Lighte was a clownish child who told off-color jokes and played the recorder with his nose. He was an aimless student until he took a college elective on the Far East, hoping for an education on the Vietnam War. This one happenstance determined much of his future: studying Chinese in Taiwan, teaching English in Tokyo, working in Beijing, connecting with his husband over A Night at the Chinese Opera, and adopting two Chinese daughters. In brief vignettes, some almost Proustian in their evocation of sense memories, Lighte remembers people and places that hold significance for him. For instance, in “The Gardenia Bush” and “The Lilac Quest,” a flower’s scent takes him back to the past. A whiff of gardenia perfume in China, and he’s in a friend’s Miami Beach yard, while the smell of lilacs reminds him of the desperate hunt for a floral gift for Aunt Marcy’s surprise party. Other objects are nearly as totemic—red plates purchased for Uncle David’s shiva, a last-minute passport obtained before a QE2 voyage with his father, or the store-bought cookies he took to AIDS patients in memory of a departed friend. His meetings with Pearl Buck and Nigel Nicolson are highlights and reinforce the subtitle’s delight in historical serendipity. Meanwhile, “Seder in Kensington” is the best example of Lighte bringing disparate elements of his life together.

Lively, evocative autobiographical essays.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0991252978

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Acausal Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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