Engaging bits about intriguing lands, all in service of trying to “understand the complexities of the world.”

BORDERLINE CITIZEN

DISPATCHES FROM THE OUTSKIRTS OF NATIONHOOD

An American expatriate now living in Singapore explores the world between and beyond borders, where the notion of nationalism becomes complicated.

As the author of a dozen or so books and an academic within a number of writing programs, Hemley (A Field Guide for Immersion Writing, 2012, etc.) has crossed the borders between fiction and nonfiction and established himself as an internationalist. His latest is a travel book of sorts but not one aimed at tourists. In “Mr. Chen’s Mountain,” the author invokes an old saying: “If you spend a day in China you can write a book; if you spend a month, you can write an article; if you spend a year, you can’t write anything.” This chapter, one of the book’s most provocative and engaging, chronicles the story of a megawealthy man whose character and wealth resist easy understanding or categorization. The author compares his subject to both Citizen Kane and Jed Clampett, but with a twist on the latter. “What makes him remarkable is that he’s not the Jed Clampett who moved to Beverly Hills but the [one] who returned home,” where his wealth towers in stark contrast to the poverty he left behind. Because many of the chapters were previously published—in the New York Observer, the Iowa Review, and elsewhere—the narrative doesn’t always cohere, and some of the complexities of border rivalries and histories can be difficult to apprehend quickly. However, this may be an element of Hemley’s overall theme about how lands can change allegiances and alliances many times without the natives themselves changing. “Governments are necessary, and it’s natural to want to consider oneself part of something larger,” he writes. “But I’ve never been fully convinced that nations as such make sense.” Among other topics, the author explores the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, and the fraught border between India and Bangladesh.

Engaging bits about intriguing lands, all in service of trying to “understand the complexities of the world.”

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4962-2041-7

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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