GAL

A TRUE LIFE

A young African-American woman born and raised in Charleston, SC, movingly relates in unsparing detail her struggle to overcome a legacy of abuse and neglect. Choosing to write under a pseudonym to protect her family, the author showed her manuscript to another Charlestonian, novelist Josephine Humphreys (The Fireman's Fair, 1991), who describes in the foreword how she suggested that the story would be better told in the old Southern way—orally. And this they did, with Humphreys taping and transcribing each session. Born in 1961, when her mother was only 13, Ruthie was raised by her grandmother and Clovis Fleetwood, the man she called Grand-Daddy, in the Hungry Neck section of Charleston. Though shabby and rundown, it was a place of special pride to local African-Americans, who have owned land there for more than a century. Fleetwood, who gave Ruthie the nickname ``Gal,'' enjoyed an honorable naval career, winning numerous awards and achieving the rank of chief petty officer, but off duty he was a sadistic monster. He beat Ruthie's grandmother to death in front of her, punished minor infractions with savage beatings or humiliating punishments, and though he spent money freely on drink and other women, he refused to provide the girl and her sisters and young aunts with proper clothing or adequate food. Ruthie developed a stutter, began to steal, and as she grew older smoked dope and drank. ``I was evil as a child,'' she confesses, ``but I was evil because I was being treated evil.'' Her despair-fed anger and self- destructive behavior finally ended when she met Ray Bolton and his affectionate kin, who showed her that some families, unlike her own, could truly give love. An inspiring journey of a contemporary pilgrim who, beset by all the worst demons, learned to love and forgive. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-100104-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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