Ambitious and thoughtful work, successfully fusing the personal and social by raising complex questions about drugs,...

OPIUM FIEND

A 21ST CENTURY SLAVE TO A 19TH CENTURY ADDICTION

Boldly written, in-depth account of an expatriate aesthete’s dalliance with opium.

Journalist Martin (The Art of Opium Antiques, 2007) builds this unusual memoir around a clever conceit, making literal the similarities between collecting and addiction. Following a San Diego childhood marked by his urge to collect “anything that caught my fancy” and a stint in the Navy, Martin became a Bangkok-based writer of travel guides who first collected textiles before developing a then-obscure specialty: finely crafted opium accessories from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when usage was both widespread and decried in Asia, America and France. Since then, opportunities to smoke opium have become rare. Organized crime diverts most poppy harvests toward heroin production, and Asian governments crack down upon any resurgence as an embarrassing historical slur. Through his collecting fervor, Martin eventually met a few devotees who had access to pure opium, or chandu. Since he by then possessed a unique collection of antique paraphernalia for the smoking ritual, he developed friendships that led first to extravagantly decadent smoking sessions, which via opium’s unique intoxication seemed to them deeply intellectual, but then to his own out-of-control addiction. He was bemused to find both opium’s wondrous qualities and the terrors of dependency much as they were depicted in his research. Ultimately, running out of both money and connections, Martin successfully negotiated the painful withdrawal at a Buddhist monastery. The author’s writing is capable and clear; though some of his opiated reveries can seem pretentious, he captures modern-day Southeast Asia—and the surreal risks of pursuing such experiences there—in vivid, concrete terms. While his depiction of addiction’s hazards is original and harrowing, his intellectual forthrightness seems nervy in the current political tenor, making the book stand out among recent memoirs.

Ambitious and thoughtful work, successfully fusing the personal and social by raising complex questions about drugs, addiction and contested cultural narratives.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-51783-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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