IT'S A SLIPPERY SLOPE

An avalanche of shallow solipsisms as the veteran monologist takes to the slopes and learns to ski. Artists who plumb their lives for their work run the grave risk of using up all their best material and being reduced to diary trivialities and fire-sale reminiscences. Gray (Impossible Vacation, 1992, etc.) has seemed to be headed in this direction for a while; now he is finally there. He tries to freight everything with meaning—weighing skiing down with a series of pompous metaphors about existence—but this only amplifies the base banalities that threaten at every turn. ``In order to be in control, you have to be out of control. . . . It's the first leap of faith that I've ever had in my life.'' As he stumbles along, he tries to drag in his mother's suicide, his unexpected fatherhood, and the breakup of his long-term relationship/marriage. The descriptions of this last item are as painful as any skiing injury, as Gray alternates self-justifying contrition with the kind of analysis you'd expect from a third-rate shrink. After he fathers a child with the ``other woman'' and his marriage disintegrates, Gray has an epiphany on the slopes that is almost startling in its egocentrism and moral obtuseness: ``I thought I was going to self-destruct and instead I helped bring new life into the world. I gave myself a big high five, and I thought, You know, I've returned to New England and I'm no longer a puritan.'' The monologue style, with its frequent repetitions and digressions, makes all this even more awkward. What may work well before an audience just seems uncontrolled on paper. This snow job should shake the devotion of even Gray's most steadfast fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-52523-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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