Affectionate, with a bracing air of locality—the kind of microhistory that will yield gold for more sweeping history...

SWEDE

WEEQUAHIC'S GENTLE GIANT

Masin’s portrait of his father, a renowned athlete of northern New Jersey in the ’30s and ’40s.

As historians turn more and more to intimately drawn, tightly focused stories of the Everyman to provide meaning and texture to the progress of time, this biography is just the kind of material they will seek out. Masin has written a loving story of his father, who, like all good fathers, was an exceptional man in his son’s eyes: generous (except with allowances), gentle, attentive and full of quirks and eccentricities. But the senior Masin, known as “Swede,” was also a star athlete—state champion in the shot put, voted most outstanding state player in basketball and All-American in soccer (when he happened to pick up the sport) and captain of three teams in college—as well as humble and a gentleman. So powerful and pervasive was Swede’s image in New Jersey that Philip Roth took him as the starting point for his character Swede Levov in American Pastoral. Like Masin’s father, Roth also graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark, N.J., and it is in drawing that city’s Weequahic section that Masin steps outside the personal and tackles the psychogeographic. He inspects not only the lay of this particular land, but the day-to-day life of his father’s part of town: where he hung out, the street life, school, socializing, food, architecture, theater, sledding in the park, liberal politics and more. Masin also explores how Swede was “this nice Jewish boy, living in a wonderful Jewish neighborhood, with kind Jewish parents,” a kid who rarely gave his parents grief, “but marrying a shiksa, well, that was devastating.” His parents managed to survive the devastation and the book pays nearly as close attention to Estelle’s Italian background as it does to Swede’s; a feisty, outspoken family, though Masin’s most evocative memory is the spaghetti and meatballs. Playfully teasing portrayals of the author’s brother and sisters adds a satisfying completeness to the Swede’s impact.

Affectionate, with a bracing air of locality—the kind of microhistory that will yield gold for more sweeping history projects.

Pub Date: July 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1440144356

Page Count: 236

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2010

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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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