Although the narrative is occasionally meandering and stolid, the best sections address the difficulties inherent in coming...

HAPPENSTANCE

A nonfiction-writing professor muses on the random occurrences that led to his parents’ troubled marriage and its subsequent effects on his own trajectory.

Root (Limited Sight Distance: Essays for Airwaves, 2013, etc.) ambles along a winding road that begins with the unlikely romance between his mother, Marie, a vivacious young woman focused on marriage and movie stars, and his father, Bob, a quiet, industrious man. A mere two months after the marriage, Bob entered the Marine Corps to fight in World War II, an event that changed the Root family forever. Despite her devout Catholic heritage, Marie, feeling lonely and abandoned, had an affair that resulted in pregnancy; although this infidelity fractured the fledgling marriage, Bob agreed to raise another man’s daughter as his own. Marie favored the girl over her two sons with Bob, and the author grew up feeling alienated from both his parents, spending most of his time reading alone in his room. Over the next several years, his parents divorced, remarried and then divorced again, their tenuous yet stubborn bond remaining constant. After Marie’s death at age 48, the author, now married and studying for a doctorate in English, learned that his mother had engaged in financial deception in addition to adultery. Root’s plainspoken honesty is striking: “I also knew that, even in that moment when I was still in the throes of my own grief and my own sense of loss, I would not forgive my mother for this betrayal.” Further segments address Root’s own divorce and remarriage and the ways that we alternately repeat and reject our parents’ choices.

Although the narrative is occasionally meandering and stolid, the best sections address the difficulties inherent in coming to terms with parental imperfections.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60938-191-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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