Dubious entertainment best left unread, except by those who need to compare themselves with other ne’er-do-wells in order to...

WAITING FOR MY CATS TO DIE

A MEMOIR

A middle-aged single woman living with two diabetic cats in a shabby, haunted New York apartment chronicles her anxiety, her obsession with death, and the unending failures that have plagued her personal and professional life.

Admitting that her first book, Cyberville (1997), did not sell well, Horn attempts to boost her self-esteem by penning these “memoirs,” which focus on her thoroughly depressing life and awkward personality. Just over 40 years old, she has forsaken any hope of meeting “the right guy,” contenting herself with very occasional one-night stands. Her idea of intimacy is demonstrating the fat rolls on her tummy to a male friend. Even her business gives her no opportunity to get away from her problems. Horn is the founder of the chat room Echo.com, a place where a bunch of unhappy individuals spend hours rehashing their own misery. Unsurprisingly, many of her client “chatters” do not pay their bills, and Horn has to supplement her meager income working in a local bookstore. Her fixation on mortality drives her to search for deceased ancestors and abandoned cemeteries, and to conduct interviews in old-age homes. The investigation she launches to discover the identity of the sad ghost who was marooned in her apartment after some terrible tragedy occurred there in the ’50s is perhaps the only intriguing part of her book. Otherwise this story, circumscribed by existential horror and boredom, offers no insights into the mystery of life. Its uninspiring content is hardly redeemed by Horn’s feeble attempts to take her own words with a grain of salt. Ill at ease with herself, Horn imparts this uneasiness to her narrative and her audience.

Dubious entertainment best left unread, except by those who need to compare themselves with other ne’er-do-wells in order to feel better about their own predicament.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26692-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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