A text that thrums with life and assures the rest is not silence.

THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES

The inspiring, salacious, sad, materialistic, insecure, arrogant, hilarious and dull ruminations of a most gifted actor.

Burton was not assiduous about his diary. There are fascinating flurries of activity, generally surrounding his work on film (from The Taming of the Shrew to The Battle of Sutjeska) or on a play (a revival of Camelot in 1980). But there are also months, even years, that go by in silence. Occasionally, Burton had nothing to say—e.g., a six-day stretch in 1975 when each day’s entry offers but a single word: “Booze.” Burton struggled throughout his career with alcohol (the diary records alternating periods of abstinence and drunkenness) and cigarettes. He constantly battled his weight, as well, clearly disturbed when he was only a few pounds over what he wished to be. His relationship with his two-term wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor, will no doubt interest many readers, and the diary at times resembles a seismograph marking the rumbles in their relationship. The author often waxes eloquent about her, recording her beauty and her talent (he believed she was a gifted actress). Perhaps most impressive, however, is the catalog of Burton’s reading. He makes “voracious” sound feeble. He consumed mystery novels and thrillers, yes, but also Proust and Gibbon and weighty works of history and philosophy. (He read In Search of Lost Time twice, just to be sure.) When he was preparing for travel, he always assembled a thick stack of books to take with him. Williams (Welsh History/Swansea Univ.; Capitalism, Community and Conflict: The South Wales Coalfield, 1898-1947, 1998, etc.) provides scrupulous editing—there are a myriad of fascinating footnotes, only a few of which are questionable: Do we really need to be told who Mark Twain is?—and the book includes countless juicy comments from Burton about colleagues, directors, authors, family, politics and celebrity.

A text that thrums with life and assures the rest is not silence.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-18010-7

Page Count: 546

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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