The only weakness with this book is the length. Please, sir, may we have some more?

THE DESTINY THIEF

ESSAYS ON WRITING, WRITERS AND LIFE

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author takes a break from fiction.

After three decades and a dozen works of fiction, Russo (Trajectory, 2017, etc.) offers up this splendid collection of essays. Some were previously published, and one was spoken: a charming commencement speech highlighting “Russo’s Rules for a Good Life.” These are wise, personal pieces, and readers get to know the author as a comforting, funny, and welcoming guy. These admirable qualities are most prevalent in “Imagining Jenny,” published as an afterword to Jennifer Finney Boylan’s popular 2003 memoir, She’s Not There, about her sex reassignment surgery. Jim Boylan was Russo’s close friend and a fellow college professor at Colby. At first, writes the author, “I missed my old pal Jim and wanted him…back again.” But he came to understand and appreciate what his friend was going through, and he creates a tender, affectionate, “great love story.” The rest of the essays focus on writers. Russo expertly resuscitates Dickens’ Pickwick Papers for new readers as he explores "the spectacle of genius recognizing itself.” He’s also insightful about Twain’s nonfiction, which offered up new opportunities for the “inspired, indeed unparalleled, bullshitter” who later became the “compassionate, broad-minded and fatherly” author of Huckleberry Finn. Along the way, we learn about some of Russo’s other favorite writers, including Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck, and Flannery O’Connor, and musicians: Springsteen, Dylan, Grace Slick. The longest piece, “Getting Good,” is a pep talk about the road the author took to become a successful writer, while the title essay argues for writers going home again in order to find the right tone for their writing. “The Gravestone and the Commode” is a riff on the importance of humor in life and literature: “The best humor has always resided in the chamber next to the one occupied by suffering.”

The only weakness with this book is the length. Please, sir, may we have some more?

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3351-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more