A unique vision, presented in rough-hewn prose.



Novelist Wolfe (The Parrot Trainer, 2003, etc.) recalls a childhood growing up poor in Colorado and Montana during the 1940s and ’50s, a time when he was deeply unhappy but fully occupied.

The first thing he remembers is living rather high on the hog in Colorado. His father was chief physician at Woodman, a tuberculosis sanatorium; his mother was its chief administrator. Their relationship was unfulfilling, so there was always tension in the Wolfe household. The strain prompted their son to search the Woodman grounds for secrets behind the veil of everyday life, sometimes making a real discovery (the stairwell hidden by ferns that led to an underground tunnel) and sometimes an imaginary one (the “secret room” that he dreamed he found behind his bedroom wall). Penicillin put an end to the sanatorium, and the family took a financial plunge. Wolfe, his mentally challenged sister and his mother moved into a tent in the country. His father, now a morphine addict and child-beater, lived in town. With easy poise and an artisan’s exactitude, Wolfe explains that he found grace and acceptance in the outdoors, escaping “the usual fighting and fucking scenario that played out in the farmhouse” back home with Mom and his new stepdad. Outside, he found further opportunities to see behind the veil, into the mystery of his own universe: on skis, plunging through a blinding dazzle of powder or voyaging atop his horse. To get away from her abusive second husband, Mom took them to Montana, even though “Missoula in the 1950s was not a great place for adult misfits.” Later, Wolfe took work as a logger and a copper-miner; about each trade he spins stories both magic and real. Whatever the subject, the author’s underlying topic is “the play of things, [the] stuff that constantly glittered and zinged around in my head.”

A unique vision, presented in rough-hewn prose.

Pub Date: June 21, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-31093-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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

Did you like this book?