Affectionate, funny, and beautifully written: a book for every fan of real food.

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THE BEST COOK IN THE WORLD

TALES FROM MY MOMMA'S TABLE

Heartfelt, often hilarious stories from an Alabama kitchen, a place from which issue wondrous remembrances and wondrous foods alike.

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Bragg (My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South, 2015, etc.) matches the tales he assembled about his father in The Prince of Frogtown (2008) with an equally rough-and-tumble collection of folk wisdom served up courtesy of his mother, who “cooked for people she’d have just as soon poisoned, and for the loves of her life.” There’s an aching nostalgia throughout, not just for years gone, but also for a way of life that seems to have faded away, a Southernism of which “our food may be the best part left.” It’s a food that African-Americans call “soul food” because it transcends bodily pain and torment and, Bragg writes, offers “a richness for a people without riches.” Over the course of this long narrative, the author’s mother turns over the stage to other relatives, and webs of stories are spun, to say nothing of well-observed notes on old-fashioned Southern foodways: raccoon is stinky, snapping turtle is sometimes eaten, “but that, too, is complicated,” and tomatoes are to be cherished if you can find one that tastes like a tomato, to say nothing of a chicken that tastes like a chicken. Bragg’s mother is a worthy guide throughout, unyielding in her judgment: “Use brown eggs when you can get ’em,” she warns. “They’re more like real eggs.” In this inauthentic world, there’s nothing like some comfort food: greens, grits with just a little hint of cheese, fried chicken, and black-eyed peas—not to mention ham and redeye gravy (“smoked ham steaks can be used as a shortcut, if you are a Philistine”), government cheese, fried bologna sandwiches, and fried okra (not battered, since it “defeats the purpose of fresh food”).

Affectionate, funny, and beautifully written: a book for every fan of real food.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4041-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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