This new offering in the expanding and increasingly noteworthy field of Chekhov studies lacks both the original scholarship and the intellectual depth of other recent studies. Callow (From Noon to Starry Night, 1992; Lost Earth, 1995) has made a career of writing biographies of artistic greats, from CÇzanne to Walt Whitman. Turning his attention to a writer clearly dear to his heart, he opens his study with sentimental musings on seeing his first performance of a Chekhov work at the age of 22. This opening immediately sets the tone for a biography that takes us on a bumpy and highly personal journey through Chekhov’s life and work. Callow covers the usual ground: Chekhov’s youth in Taganrog, his move to Moscow, medical school, family affairs, the writing life, and his marriage to the actress Olga Knipper. He also interweaves mostly tedious commentary on and synopses of individual stories and plays into the narrative, and includes extended excerpts from Chekhov’s texts and letters. Callow’s narrative, from the very start, lacks structure (for instance, his information about serfdom in Russia is never given a proper context or carried through to form an argument) and tends to wander in too many directions. Furthermore, his staccato style (“he” can be repeated a dozen times in as many sentences) becomes irritating. As suggested by the biography’s subtitle, Callow’s loosely defined central interest in Chekhov is the “hidden,— or emotional, life of the author and the recurrent themes of romantic disillusionment and the search for intimacy that appear in Chekhov’s plays and short stories. But these are subjects that have long interested scholars and literary critics, and have generated considerable interesting work. Callow’s overly simplistic biography fails to convey the source of Chekhov’s genius. Interested readers would benefit more from their own reading of Chekhov, or from the more stimulating biographies of Donald Rayfield or V.S. Pritchett. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 15, 1998

ISBN: 1-56663-187-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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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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