THE LAST ROAD REBEL—AND OTHER LOST STORIES

GROWING UP IN A SMALL TOWN—AND NEVER GETTING OVER IT

Gilberg delivers a debut memoir about coming-of-age in 1950s Ohio.

The author serves as a guide to the seemingly quintessential Midwestern town of New Bremen. He shows readers a time and place in which everyone seemed to know their neighbors, from the doctors who made house calls to the farmers who needed extra help in hay season. Hardwood trees stood in abundance, so that “riding a bicycle down most of the town’s streets was like going through quiet, leafy, shady, green tunnels.” Of course, it was also a time of Cold War paranoia and fear of a polio epidemic. Gilberg also offers up a firsthand account of a time of change for young people, with rock ’n’ roll making its assault on school dances and car enthusiasts pursuing their passion for customization. It’s this latter aspect that gives the book its title and takes up a great deal of its narrative focus. Specifically, the author tells of how he helped to found an automotive club called the Road Rebels (“New Bremen was going to have a car club! Just because”) and shares their many adventures as well as his undying enthusiasm for engines. The book is most intriguing when it includes the sorts of details and anecdotes that less personal histories often overlook, such as the fact that the official Road Rebel shirt had “Safety Club” embroidered on the left sleeve or how the author earnestly participated in the retrospectively silly Civilian Air Patrol Ground Observer Corps. The book isn’t all Leave It to Beaver moments, though; death comes to New Bremen in horrific ways, and the author realizes that he eventually must move on to bigger and better things. Some of Gilberg’s reflections, such as an account of him and his friends playing with carbide cannons, don’t offer as much excitement as others do. They do, however, help to create a more complete picture of what it was like to be alive in those bygone days. A highly personal and readable remembrance that paints an appealing picture of the past.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-5724-6

Page Count: 266

Publisher: True Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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