A mostly even-keeled soldier’s memoir that occasionally throws sparks.

SERIOUSLY NOT ALL RIGHT

FIVE WARS IN TEN YEARS

As a foreign service officer and soldier, Capps discovered firsthand the psychological and emotional tolls of wartime.

The author, who is the founder and director of the Veterans Writing Project, begins his memoir with an account of the time he nearly committed suicide. Capps joined the military as a careerist back in the mid-1980s, though he was sharp enough to take and pass the foreign service exam, and he traveled to many global flashpoints during his career. The author writes in a fairly straightforward style—in Kabul, the “old market is...just as much a warren of alleys as it was five hundred years ago. It was a great place to take the temperature of the city—to walk around and get a feel for how safe things felt or what people were talking about”—but the narrative is thick with portent. Capps has seemingly seen it all, including Rwanda when the Hutus and Tutsis were slaughtering each other and battlegrounds in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The horrors of what he has witnessed, and his inability to right just one of the overturned carts, have followed him to bed at night—to call them nightmares would be to diminish their stark terror—and inflicted him with shakes, panic attacks and severe depression, as well as a horrible fear: “[T]he thing that really scares me and sends me running for help—is that I am not in control of my mind.” Eventually, to combat his raging PTSD, Capps sought both psychiatric and pharmacological help, and he is now glad to no longer be a participant in the suffering of war. “There will always be wars and there will always be dead guys,” he writes in closing. “But someone else is out there now. Godspeed to them. I’ve done my share. I’m going home.”

A mostly even-keeled soldier’s memoir that occasionally throws sparks.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936182-58-9

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Schaffner Press

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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