Grating but ultimately humane.



A distinguished writer and English professor chronicles his experiences living and loving between American and Czech cultures.

When Katrovas (Scorpio Rising: Selected Poems, 2011, etc.) went to Czechoslovakia in 1989, he had no idea that from that moment forward, he would become a divided man. Married, he began an affair with a Czech woman and eventually wed her. In the end, he would stay with his second wife “only because [he] had children with her.” Yet his love for their three daughters was and remains “fierce and direct.” Their births gave him insight into his own odd childhood, during which he lived first on the run or on welfare with parents and then abroad in Japan with his uncle’s family. Like their father, the girls lived a life of in-between, though it was much more privileged than his own economically disadvantaged one. As they grew up and he grew into his role of father, his attitudes toward women changed. Females and female sexuality were no longer just the source of “sweet and earthly succor.” A barely functional speaker of Czech, Katrovas admits himself to be a “grudging observer” of the Czech society, in part due to the fact that its language and culture loom as ever present threats to intimacy with his daughters. At the same time, Czech society has allowed him to understand his past as well as his own culture from a unique perspective. Females in Prague, for example, can walk the streets at night in safety; yet in the American land of liberty, they cannot. It is only in the realm of rhetoric that women can express some measure of freedom. At times brutally provocative, Katrovas’ essays, which also grapple more generally with otherness, faith and the role of art in society, are nothing if not stimulating.

Grating but ultimately humane.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-941110-06-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Three Rooms Press

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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