Honest to a fault, richly veined with indelible images: a monumental piece of work.

OH THE GLORY OF IT ALL

A founding McSweeney’s editor tells about his privileged and impressively troubled young years, with surprisingly few missteps on a well-worn path.

Wilsey was blessed and cursed with an extraordinarily messy, dramatic, wealthy family that tore him to shreds when they weren’t casting him aside. The story begins in a frantic flurry that the rest of the book—wonderfully lengthy by the standards of this generation, who normally sum things up in 180 or so loosely spaced pages—will wind itself trying to keep up with: “In the beginning we were happy. And we were always excessive. So in the beginning we were happy to excess.” Wilsey’s father was a millionaire many times over, while his mother was a legendary beauty raised by itinerant heartland preachers—the pair of them whirling dervishes of Bay Area society, she hosting salons and he buzzing over Napa Valley in his helicopter. Wilsey was alternately obsessed over and ignored. Already withdrawn by the time his father (after having an affair with Danielle Steele) left his mother for her best friend, a rapacious social X-ray, he, not much later, became a full-blown delinquent. A rich kid cliché, he shuttled between his sniping parents and rambled through an ’80s adolescence stoned and clueless, slumping further into a self-destructive despondency. Meanwhile, his mother dragged him and a retinue of children around the world in a surreal campaign for peace that was more exasperatingly arrogant one-woman theater (camera crews! meeting Gorbachev!) than humanitarian endeavor. Wilsey’s prose can’t hope to maintain its rather astonishing momentum through almost 500 pages, and so some stretches drag, especially those about the creepy program that seems more cult than school but that does manage to straighten the boy out. Only in his later years does the focus of Wilsey’s self-lacerating style soften somewhat—he’s not a writer you want to see mellow—but it’s a small complaint.

Honest to a fault, richly veined with indelible images: a monumental piece of work.

Pub Date: May 23, 2005

ISBN: 1-59420-051-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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