Elegant, controversial, and altogether memorable.



A poetic, often contrarian meditation on race in modern America.

Borrowing from writer/philosopher William Gass, who deconstructed the meanings of a less socially charged color in On Being Blue, PBS commentator and essayist Rodriguez (Days of Obligation, 1992, etc.) ponders the meaning of Mexicanness, Hispanitude, mestizaje, and all the other forms of being brown in the US. “I write about race in America,” he begins, “in hopes of undermining the notion of race in America.” With many asides on the origins of the notion that Hispanics are an ethnic minority—a recent idea, he suggests, adopted from the African-American struggle for civil rights—Rodriguez offers a few balloon-bursting observations on the tensions that have marked recent politics; the black-white argument, he writes, “is like listening to a bad marriage through a thin partition, a civil war replete with violence, recrimination, mimicry, slamming doors.” That’s not to say that those tensions are not real, and Rodriguez allows that plenty of doors have been slammed in his face as a brown, gay person. Plenty of others have been thrown open, though, affording him a privileged (and deserved) position as cultural commentator that he gratefully acknowledges. Without descending into sloganeering or us-versus-them rhetoric, Rodriguez argues for an inclusive “white freedom” accorded to all citizens; his democratic spirit and the absence of special pleading are both refreshing. In their erudition and irony, these writings recall the essays of the late Mexican poet Octavio Paz, who could easily have written the closing lines: “Truly, one way to appreciate the beauty of the world is to choose one color and to notice its recurrence in rooms, within landscapes. And upon bookshelves.”

Elegant, controversial, and altogether memorable.

Pub Date: April 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03043-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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