SPIDER EATERS

A MEMOIR

Moving, poetic, and honest, this is one of the best memoirs yet published of the Cultural Revolution in China. Yang (East Asian Studies/Dickinson Coll.) was born in 1950; her parents, both professors, had impeccable revolutionary credentials. She spent her early years in Switzerland, where her father served as a diplomat, and was a teenager back home in China when the Cultural Revolution began. She reveals, with unsparing insight into herself and tenderness for those caught up in it, the impact of this upheaval on the close-knit families and idealistic youth of China. She describes the first violent months of the Cultural Revolution as the most terrible and also the most wonderful of her life, as, with the certainty of youth, she and her fellow revolutionaries trashed their teachers, their political leaders, and all those that stood in the way of Mao's vision. A teacher was beaten to death for asking students to practice their art by drawing nudes from plastic statues. Yang and her comrades in the Red Guards hauled officials in for brutal interrogations, and she was part of a group that banned, with disastrous consequences, all private shops in the city of Guangzhou. Volunteering to go into the countryside, she was assigned to a pig farm. She remembers musing at the time, ``I think I love Chairman Mao more than my parents.'' Much of the memoir consists of her hard experiences on the farm and her gradual recognition that the Cultural Revolution was a ``tremendous waste and unprecedented human tragedy''; the true class struggle in China, she realized, was being waged by entrenched and corrupt bureaucrats against the Chinese people. Eventually she managed to get back to Beijing and to obtain a scholarship from the University of Massachusetts. This is a sad story, filled with individual tragedies, but deeply revealing in its portrait of idealistic youth lost in a convulsion almost beyond human conception. (19 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-520-20480-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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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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