A sturdy book of traditional wisdom and prescriptions for recovery.

FOR JOSHUA

AN OJIBWE FATHER TEACHES HIS SON

An Ojibwa author fulfills his obligation by passing down his life’s wisdom to his son.

Before his death in 2017, Wagamese (Starlight, 2018, etc.) had earned renown in his native Canada for his memoirs and novels. He had also completed this book for his son, then 6 years old. As he explains to the son who barely knew him, “drinking is why we are separated. That’s the plain and simple truth of it. I was a drunk and never faced the truth about myself—that I was a drunk. Booze owned me.” The author then proceeds to revisit a childhood of foster homes and adoption, of feeling like he never fit in or belonged, and of running away to find comfort in transient street life and a community of sorts among others who lived a life of petty crime to subsidize their various addictions. He writes about his search for identity in Ojibwa traditions and what he later considered the misguided “influence of militant Native groups like the American Indian Movement.” “I became racist in my thinking,” he writes, “and it was easy to blame the white man and society for my ordeals. In fact, it made more sense than anything I’d thought of or heard before.” Much of the narrative follows Wagamese’s three days in the wilderness, with only a blanket, at the behest of a recovering alcoholic who thought Ojibwa teachings could help his friend in recovery. Only after he finished was the author told that this had been his “Vision Quest.” The author mixes reflections on the course of his life with dreams he had during those three nights along with Native legends and traditions, illuminating the significance of the pipe and the drum. “As Ojibway men, we are taught that it is the father’s responsibility to introduce our children to the world,” he writes to his son, and this posthumous publication is part of the legacy he passes along.

A sturdy book of traditional wisdom and prescriptions for recovery.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-57131-389-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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