A welcome, refreshing literary biography.



Victorian literature scholar Morrison presents the first biography of the infamous writer in three decades, and the first to include unpublished works.

A magnetic and controversial figure in his time, Thomas De Quincey (1785–1859), like many creative intellects, combined literary brilliance with drug addiction. His drug of choice, laudanum, provided alternating bouts of euphoria, lucidity and debilitating depression. Despite the negative side effects, De Quincey was able to build a provocative and influential body of work, from his iconic Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) to the terrifying short fiction he wrote toward the end of his career, which inspired the likes of Poe and Dickens. In his work on drug use, he innovatively used confessional writing directed at a mainstream audience, speaking “directly to our ongoing fascination with habit, desire, commercialism, and consumption.” His obsessive tendencies, toward drugs but also toward books, languages and death, may have originated during a childhood that was fraught with the loss of his sister, brother, and father, and a frustrating series of schools, none of which satisfied him. De Quincey also faced bouts of illness in his youth, which may have been treated with opium, a common ingredient in 18th-century medicines. At age 20, to treat a toothache, “one dose [of opium] changed everything,” and he began to use the drug in earnest. Around this time, he also began friendships with the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, relationships he would maintain for most of his life. Misconceptions persist about De Quincey and his work, but Morrison’s adept narrative fills in many gaps and portrays the writer as a man struggling between the joys of writing and rigorous thought and the sorrows of addiction and debt. The author excels in his argument that De Quincey is an integral part of literary history, and above all, a “noble explorer of self.”

A welcome, refreshing literary biography.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60598-132-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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 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...


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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