A palpable, loving evocation of experiences “tucked deep” into the author’s soul.

ALPINE APPRENTICE

How two years at a school in the Swiss Alps changed the life of a rebellious teenager.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., in the late 1960s, essayist and Sarabande Books editor-in-chief Gorham (Study in Perfect, 2014, etc.) was bullied so mercilessly by her classmates that she thought about suicide. Hurt and angry, she vented her feelings on her four younger sisters, tormenting, teasing, and attacking them. Banished to an attic room, she howled in fury. When her frustrated parents, their patience worn thin, offered to send her to an international school in Switzerland, where she would get “an exotic secondary education,” Gorham leapt at the chance. In her graceful, nostalgic memoir, she recalls traveling alone to the village of Goldern; acclimating to a school where students were awakened by a loud gong in the early hours of the morning to begin their chores; learning German (she picked up the language in 3 months, she reports proudly); and becoming a productive member of a close-knit community. The author discovered at the Ecole d’Humanité a “unique mixture of progressive education and tightly orchestrated environment.” The school was founded by an idealistic couple, Paul Geheeb and his wife, Edith, based on “a single, essential thought: Become who you are.” When faced with any choice, students were encouraged to ask themselves, “who do I want to be?” Although focused on self-reliance, the school nurtured a strong sense of community and responsibility to others. Adults were everywhere, monitoring students’ academic progress and, equally important, their emotional and social growth. Besides portraits of teachers and fellow students, Gorham offers a frothy piece on meringues, a savory recollection of the “beefy, winey rush” of bindenfleisch, and a tense essay about an avalanche that took one student’s life and incited “grief, fear, and anger” among the community. Returning to Goldern as an adult, Gorham broke down in tears, overcome with memories.

A palpable, loving evocation of experiences “tucked deep” into the author’s soul.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8203-5072-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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