Artful ramblings about life fully lived and well remembered.

THE SMOKING DIARIES

Lyrical and darkly funny meditations on death, infirmity and other disasters of aging by one of Britain’s most acclaimed playwrights.

Gray, author of scripts for radio, television and the stage, begins his seemingly stream-of-consciousness diaries on his 65th birthday, the day he learns that his good friend Harold Pinter has cancer. So does his close friend Ian Hamilton, who dies during the course of Gray’s diary keeping; and before the end, Gray learns that he has it, too, though his stomach and liver are “in such a shambles” that he won’t live long enough for his prostate cancer to matter. Indeed, death hovers over the book yet doesn’t permeate it, for Gray has filled it with sharp observations, delicious and terrible childhood memories of parents, grandparents and schooldays, and choice comments about films (Gary Cooper’s portrayal of the tortured, stoic sheriff in High Noon, he writes, owes much to the actor’s painfully inflamed piles during the filming) and the work of other writers (W.H. Auden is especially scorned). Asides, afterthoughts and digressions create the impression that the writing is spontaneous and unedited, the author talking to himself and jotting down his thoughts in a yellow pad. It’s not, however, a casual diary. It’s a collection of well-crafted essays (with intriguing titles—“On Being a Genius,” “Still Not Mummy’s Football Boots,” “A Smoking Urologist”) that touch on friendship, adultery, illness, loss, writing, family and anybody and anything else in life that captures the writer’s attention. Throughout, he is frank and funny about his failings and his weaknesses (“his fecklessness, self-indulgence, extravagance”). Once a four-bottles-of-champagne-a-day drinker who now has only diet sodas, a smoker who’s trying to cut down from his habitual 60 cigarettes a day, he’s overdrawn at his bank and can’t pay his taxes, yet he dines out more often than in, and vacations with his wife in Barbados and Italy.

Artful ramblings about life fully lived and well remembered.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7867-1545-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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