Graceful, respectful and achingly honest.

SEMPRE SUSAN

A MEMOIR OF SUSAN SONTAG

Novelist Nunez (Salvation City, 2010, etc.) recalls her years with her longtime friend Susan Sontag (1933–2004).

Nunez, nearly 20 years Sontag’s junior, was working at the New York Review of Books when she first met the woman with whom she would share an apartment and with whose son she would share a romantic relationship. In 1976, Sontag, recovering from breast-cancer surgery, employed Nunez to deal with the piles of correspondence that had accumulated during her illness, and their relationship quickly evolved into a friendship. Nunez mostly eschews traditional chronology for the anfractuous avenues of memory, following them wherever they take her; they take readers to some amusing, painful, difficult and illuminating places. We learn that the white streak in Sontag’s hair was her actual hair color, and the rest was dyed. She admired William Gass and Joan Didion. She bit her nails, hated teaching and rarely prepared for readings. She did not carry a purse. She was funnier than many thought. Her work habits were ferocious but erratic. She liked to read a book every day, but she had no routine or writing schedule. When she was ready to write, she worked day and night, popping pills to stay awake. She was bisexual. Psychologically, it seems, she was surprisingly fragile; she needed to be the center of attention, insisted others do what she wanted to do and felt she never received the respect or money due someone of her talents (she was very impressed with her own talents). Nunez struggles mightily to be fair, but there are times when Sontag just flat pissed her off. Sometimes, says the author, she was “a Joe Louis who wanted to hurt someone.”

Graceful, respectful and achingly honest.

Pub Date: April 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-935633-22-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Atlas & Co.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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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