THE DEFIANT

A TRUE STORY OF JEWISH VENGEANCE AND SURVIVAL

A breathless Holocaust memoir of a young man who was, variously, victim, avenger, partisan, Polish soldier, and illegal immigrant to Palestine. At the core of the book is Yoran's love for his mother, a strong woman who had instilled her Zionist dreams in her family and had held them together during the war's early days. Soon after the Nazis invaded Poland, Yoran and his brother Musio, urged on by their dying mother (``Go, my beloved children,'' she says, ``and take vengeance for us''), hid out in a small underground bunker in a forest, enduring a bitter winter. Then, driven by their mother's parting words, they emerged and set about taking their revenge. They joined a group of partisans. Yoran, with his Aryan looks, a facility in several languages, and a daunting tolerance for homemade vodka (alcohol, Yoran suggests, caused the deaths of many partisans), moved freely in a variety of dangerous circles. He witnessed hideous atrocities carried out by German and Slavic soldiers and civilians, he heard a great deal, and he forgot nothing. Among the deranged figures he describes are a Nazi who boasted of killing babies and an NKVD agent who swore that he would kill his own mother if she proved to be a counter-revolutionary. Yoran is never reluctant to admit that he was often deeply fearful; despite that, he carried out some audacious bluffs, was involved in a number of vicious gunfights, and participated in some signal military successes with the partisans, including the destruction of German troop trains. The two teenage brothers eventually joined the Red Army and ended by pursuing the retreating Nazis back on to German soil. After a series of postwar misadventures, some of them comical, Yoran finally arrived in his mother's Promised Land. The most chilling, powerful, and well-written wartime memoir since The End of Days. (22 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-14585-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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