Just serviceable. Readers interested in all things Amis will want to refer to the roman à clef The Information and anxiously...

MARTIN AMIS

THE BIOGRAPHY

Indifferently written bio of “the best prose stylist in English…in the closing decades of the last and the opening of this century.”

Martin Amis is, of course, the famed one-time bad boy of British letters, son of Kingsley, the leader of the sort-of school of British writers numbering the likes of Ian Hamilton, Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, Clive James and Christopher Hitchens—not a woman in the lot and for reasons that a survivor of the 1970s will probably understand. (Men did not become enlightened until later, if then.) Bradford (English/Univ. of Ulster; Poetry: The Ultimate Guide, 2010, etc.) does a yeomanlike job of wrestling this Amis to the ground, and though an academic, he is sensible enough to realize that readers will want not just the 411 on the making of, say, Dead Babies and London Fields, but the really juicy stuff: the famous (or infamous) split with his former literary agent for an American counterpart dubbed “the Jackal,” his contemporaneous exchange of a long-suffering wife for a younger and more exotic one, his expensive dental work, etc.—in short, all the gossipy items that Amis may, regrettably, be better known for than for his actual work. Bradford’s book comes alive when he shifts from life to that work, as when he writes that Amis’ middle-period novels are “exceptional partly because of their intransigent refusal to conform to the predominant tenor of his own fiction or to discernible precedents elsewhere.” The biographical material, on the other hand, is humdrum, rendered in a commaless and sometimes breathless British English that isn’t always revealing.

Just serviceable. Readers interested in all things Amis will want to refer to the roman à clef The Information and anxiously await an autobiography.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60598-385-1

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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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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