Evocative essays that delve into the paradoxes of human life.

HALFWAY FROM HOME

ESSAYS

An English professor blends autobiography with social critiques in this essay collection.

Montgomery’s father built fences for a living, spending his “days removing dirt, adding posts in such a way that erosion or strong wind won’t knock them down.” Indeed, despite her sometimes messy childhood, the author’s father served as the fence post of her life, whose presence represented strength and safety until he contracted cancer. And while she is now an accomplished author and assistant professor at Bridgewater State University, Montgomery still sees herself as a “child,” afraid of the dark future, searching “for anything that will keep me with Daddy longer.” While grief and the raw vulnerability of a daughter who realizes her once invincible father now “exists in darkness” lie at the emotional core of the book, they also set the stage for broader reflections about her childhood and American society and culture. The volume’s autobiographical passages are written in a nonlinear style that jump back and forth across decades and locations, presenting the author’s recollections of her childhood, young adulthood, and relationship with her father in vignettes. Interspersed throughout these snapshots is a biting commentary on contemporary America, as the encroaching darkness of her personal life coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic; ever increasing societal isolation and polarization; and environmental catastrophes spawned by climate change. An extended metaphor of buried treasures, which connects a childhood memory to how humans write their own personal histories, is particularly well executed. “We bury the things we believe will define us after death,” she notes, hoping someday someone will dig them up. “In this way, we write the histories that will prevail.” As the author of multiple books of poetry, Montgomery is a skilled writer whose prose is simultaneously beautiful and tragic, nostalgic and despondent. And while the specific stories are the author’s own, the book taps into universal themes of grappling with complex family dynamics, growing up, leaving and returning home, and confronting death. This is a brilliant, if rather eclectic, collection; readers will hope for a sequel.

Evocative essays that delve into the paradoxes of human life.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-952897-25-52

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Split Lip Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2022

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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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