“I never wanted to go to war,” he concludes. “And the war, I realize, will never end.” A welcome summation of Bass’s work to...

WHY I CAME WEST

A MEMOIR

A nuanced blend of autobiography and environmental advocacy by the well-known novelist and short-story writer.

Bass (The Lives of Rocks, 2006, etc.) laments that the hard work of saving his home turf, the Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, has kept him from novel and short-story writing. “I used to be a fiction writer,” he says. “I loved that craft, that calling. I’ve had to all but abandon it, to speak out instead for another thing I love now just as much as language—the woods. These woods.” But that’s getting ahead of the story a touch, which opens with his discovery of that remarkable landscape, at 1,300 feet a comparative lowland against the nearby Rocky Mountains, its geological history accounting for its extraordinarily dense and diverse carpet of all-devouring greenery. That quality, Bass writes, reminded him and his wife instantly of their native South, where he had been working as a geologist for years while plotting an escape to some undiscovered paradise. Topping a mountain pass and looking down at the Yaak was love at first sight, and much of Bass’s nonfiction work of late has constituted a song of love for that land. He will turn away some environmentalist allies by his defense of hunting, which is modest and well reasoned: “In the Yaak, everything eats meat and everything is in motion, either seeking its quarry or seeking to keep from becoming quarry.” Against a local economy that is extractive and colonial—nearby Libby being ground zero for a particularly deadly form of environmental destruction—Bass’s willingness to live on renewable resources he has to work for is refreshing, even as he acknowledges the “impurity” attendant in being a human in a time of ecological crisis.

“I never wanted to go to war,” he concludes. “And the war, I realize, will never end.” A welcome summation of Bass’s work to date, and a call for action.

Pub Date: July 3, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-59675-1

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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