Novelist Williams (Blue Crystal, 1993, etc.) presents twined, elemental stories on the havoc of a heart operation and the random, filigreed thoughts of an amateur naturalist exploring his home patch. His family has a history of bum tickers, so it didn’t come as a surprise to Williams when he learned he had Barlow’s Syndrome, a faulty valve. But that was 15 years ago. In the meantime he married, had two children, wrote a few books, bought a house in deeply rural north-central Georgia on a forested ridge above tumbling Wildcat Creek, and steadily approached his dreaded 43rd birthday, an age at which the heart-poor in his family uniformly bowed out. Sure enough, that year he gets news he will need surgery; his valve is shot. He starts to be more attentive, in particular to the land and creatures around his home. His observations are presented as little ruminative comfortings and explorations of the wildflowers, the pink light of stormy weather, the winding sand dunes in the flow of the creek, scrappy blue jays and mesmerizing raptors, earthworms and spiders and honeysuckle. They slowly accrete for him into something more than sense of place and less than the music of the spheres, something deep and mortally inclusive, wherein he endeavors, humbly for the most part, to find a niche. Braided to this curious naturalist is the heart patient, scared and angry, who details the visits to the doctor, the surgery, and the recovery, a process in which he is flayed emotionally and cracked open physically, and vice versa. Depression settles in and moves on only after a prolonged pharmaceutical tithing. Gradually, out of the pain and shadow emerge his family and homestead, and they never looked so good. Williams’s story has a keen immediacy to it, an unmulled flavor. It is all very real and unenviable and touched with the small gestures—his father’s protective shoulder to cry upon, a daughter’s delight in his return—that encourage survival.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8203-2090-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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 19, 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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