Dubner’s search may yield what appear to be crumbs, but they’re crumbs with flecks of gold.

CONFESSIONS OF A HERO WORSHIPER

The search for a childhood hero comes to little, but the reasons behind it are illuminated.

For Dubner (Turbulent Souls, 1998), there was something special about Franco Harris, the great running back for Penn State and the Pittsburgh Steelers, some special alchemy that stirred Dubner’s soul. What accounted for “the spell he’d cast” over his adolescence, Dubner wonders. What was the gap that Harris filled, or the ghosts of that past that an older Dubner still feels thrum through him at odd moments? Confessions . . . is primarily a psychological memoir, with Dubner unraveling his life and playing it off against Harris and all that the athlete represented to him. His father died when Dubner was 13, just when the man had emerged from a long depression and had shone brightly for a few years, his death stealing away the fatherly spark that Dubner still needed (“Take me, lead me, teach me, protect me, give me permission”). Harris seemed the perfect surrogate. He was “owned by no one” and “He thought for himself, upended expectations, bowed to no pressure other than those he generated.” Further, he was humble and thoughtful, plus being a crackerjack running back, the one who pulled off the “Immaculate Reception” and led the champion Steelers. He also guarded his privacy, had a talent for making appointments and breaking them, and kept the obsessed Dubner at arm’s length. As a result, Dubner does a lot of soul-searching: Just why was he dogging poor Harris anyway? He concludes that it was in an attempt to know and understand his role model in a way he wishes he could have done with his father—to gather up some love and fill a few cracks in his life.

Dubner’s search may yield what appear to be crumbs, but they’re crumbs with flecks of gold.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2003

ISBN: 0-688-17365-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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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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