An eloquent exploration of life and love by a writer with a most inquiring mind and capacious heart.

A PRIVATE HISTORY OF AWE

A graceful memoir of a Midwestern life, with frequent leaps to stories about the author’s granddaughter and mother, now suffering from Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.

Memoirist and essayist Sanders (English/Indiana Univ.; The Force of Spirit, 2000, etc.) has crafted here a fairly traditional but nonetheless emotional narrative of his own coming-of-age. With an initial grudging nod to “that notorious trickster, memory,” the author tells about his Tennessee childhood, his Ohio boyhood and adolescence, his collegiate years at Brown, his graduate studies at Cambridge and the beginning of his teaching career in Indiana. We learn about the struggles of his alcoholic father and the frustrations of his mother. We learn about books the author read, his sexual awakening, his astonishing love affair with his wife, Ruth. They met at a summer high-school science camp, wrote passionately to each other for five years (their correspondence comprised thousands of letters), then married shortly before sailing to England. In Cambridge, he became active in the anti–Vietnam War movement; he writes affectingly about the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. He writes well, too, about suffering and disappointment and despair. His young wife had a lumpectomy in London (benign) and suffered a miscarriage the night before he had to defend his dissertation. His anti-war and other leftist sentiments threatened to estrange him from his family. Sanders writes candidly about how Christianity bore him along for a while, then left him. But at its core this is a love story. Sanders responds with awe to the forces of nature (his text begins and ends with a thunderstorm), and he believes that love is how humans connect to them. Permeating all is the author’s love for the natural world, and, even more intimately, for his parents, his wife, his children, his granddaughter.

An eloquent exploration of life and love by a writer with a most inquiring mind and capacious heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-86547-693-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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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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