There’s a thin line between precocious and overly precious, and this literary debut steps well across it.

AN EXTRAORDINARY THEORY OF OBJECTS

A MEMOIR OF AN OUTSIDER IN PARIS

A self-consciously odd coming-of-age memoir in the form of essays about places and objects.

A fashion writer and blogger, LaCava suffered some sort of depressive breakdown as a teenage American transplanted to France, but the details are sketchy, particularly in comparison with footnotes that often run longer on the page than the main text. “My strength with the written word,” she writes, “is the ability to make unlikely subjects somehow connect, a capacity that has never been my strong suit in life. I had never been patient enough to believe that looking back my sadness would all make sense. But it does now.” To the writer, perhaps, but not necessarily to readers, who may also have trouble appreciating the connections she sees. Much of the memoir concerns her adolescent “boredom verging on insanity, locked inside with my little belongings and endless ruminations.” Then there are the footnotes on the objects that became talismans, such as a skeleton key she found: “Consider the power of the early locksmith: his still was synonymous with security, and knowledge of his craft was hard to come by, as talented locksmiths didn’t want to share their secrets,” she writes by way of preamble to an explanation that runs three times as long. Ultimately, LaCava married (which we learn about in the acknowledgements) and learned from a reunion with a French classmate that he (and presumably others) hadn’t considered her so troubled, that all kids passed through that difficult stage, but she was correct that the other girls hadn’t liked her much. “These sorts of conditions never fully go away,” she writes. “I’d presented my childhood as full of whimsy and mystery rather than sadness, so much so that I’d started to believe this version as well.”

There’s a thin line between precocious and overly precious, and this literary debut steps well across it.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-196389-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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