A reflective investigation of the self, memory, and invention.



Selgin (Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist's Memoir, 2011, etc.) explores his relationships with two men who “had a profound influence” on him.

As a twin, the author “had to share everything” with his brother, from birthdays and appearance to the love of their parents. They were also competitors and rivals. In this memoir, Selgin examines how their relationship combined with the influence of his father and his eighth-grade teacher to shape his own identity. The author’s brother was “the person he looked up to more than…anyone else,” his father was an iconoclastic inventor of electronic devices, and his English teacher was someone for whom he developed a long-lasting adolescent crush. Only after the deaths of his father and his teacher did Selgin discover that both had hidden key parts of their lives. At his father's funeral, he was stunned to be asked, “did you know your father was Jewish?” Later, quite by accident, Selgin discovered an obituary of his teacher and was astonished to learn of his Native American background. Family members told the author they either knew or suspected the truth about his father, and the teacher had taught him about art, music, and his dream of a place called “Castalia,” “a special community where scholars, teachers, artists, people who still know how to think and dream, would come together.” Through his writing and other artistic pursuits, Selgin began to share that dream. After his death, the teacher's dream had been brought to life in the form of an American Indian longhouse, while the uses of some of his father’s electronic inventions caused him to reinvent his past. “It was strange,” writes Selgin, “that the two men who had meant so much to you…both felt the need to break with their pasts and reinvent themselves.” Though they buried their own pasts, their influences helped the author invent himself, and thrive, through his search for his own Castalia.

A reflective investigation of the self, memory, and invention.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9893604-7-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Hawthorne Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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 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...


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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