A heartfelt book about an inspiring model of wisdom, self-awareness, and thoughtful engagement with the world.

PLAIN RADICAL

LIVING, LOVING AND LEARNING TO LEAVE THE PLANET GRACEFULLY

The story of a man who exalted personal responsibility for systemic change.

In this combination of memoir and political critique, Jensen (Journalism/Univ. of Texas; Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog, 2013, etc.) pays homage to Jim Koplin (1933-2012), his mentor, friend, and lover. The two met in 1988, when Jensen was a University of Minnesota graduate student researching feminist responses to pornography, and Koplin, a volunteer at the Organizing Against Pornography office, agreed to be interviewed. Despite their 25-year age difference, the men felt an immediate bond, which they discovered stemmed from traumatic pasts. Koplin’s father had been violent; Jensen’s youth, which likely involved sexual abuse, was so troubled that he had developed dissociative amnesia. They both felt “not-normal,” recognizing similar quirks in each other as their friendship deepened. Although Koplin resisted being called Jensen’s “intellectual guru,” he was clearly more than an academic mentor, offering guidance through long conversations and abundant letters. Jensen admits that he was “inadequately prepared” for graduate work: naïve, not well-read, and unable to think critically about political, social, ethical, and environmental issues. On the subject of sex and gender, for example, he had been “an apologist for patriarchy” until Koplin pushed him to “think in terms of hierarchy and power” and leave his “liberal bubble” for “a more radical, and honest, analysis of myself and the world.” Portraying himself as “a pretty typical American,” Jensen believed that a “conventional narrative of U.S. benevolence” justified foreign policy, until Koplin gave him a “crash course” about U.S. relations in the Middle East. The author praises Koplin's “comprehensive and consistent radical left/feminist/anti-racist/ecological politics,” his frugal lifestyle, and his rejection of consumerism.

A heartfelt book about an inspiring model of wisdom, self-awareness, and thoughtful engagement with the world.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59376-618-4

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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