CHARLES OLSON

THE ALLEGORY OF A POET'S LIFE

Life of Charles Olson (1910-70), the ego-driven poet known as Maximum, who fathered ``projective'' verse and became the grand old man of Black Mountain College. Clark improves over his earlier bios (Jack Kerouac, 1984, The World of Damon Runyon), going all out with scholarship and research in this sympathetic retelling of the life of a poet who saw himself as ``metal hot from boiling water.'' A giant at six feet eight or nine inches, Olson was born in Worcester, Mass., and took the fishing village of Gloucester as the landscape for his free-verse epic effort The Maximus Poems. He early battened on Melville scholarship, and in his middle 30s brought out his first book, Call Me Ishmael, a gutsy but unfocused work whose critical failure shattered him and, in a way, helped reroute him toward his true goal as an epic poet. Maximus is the ``I'' or central figure of The Maximus Poems, a primitive force naming things anew in the freshness of the first morning-Olson called himself ``an archaeologist of morning.'' He was also a scholar of ancient civilizations, mainly Hittite and Mayan, and sw these civilizations as still existing in Gloucester and in him, Maximus, who was the totality of his family history, eruptive and overwhelming. As Clark shows, Olson's self-focus dried up his common-law marriages, may or may not have driven his younger second wife to suicide by automobile. While Olson's theories tried to wall him off from ego, and his poetry shows objects as archaic objects without the mediation of the poet's soul, his dependence of amphetamines, alcohol, and pot sent his ego billowing during his last decade and made much of his work diffuse and ragtag. Clark records all, accepts Olson's various self-estimates and solemn need for drugs, never suggests there might have been a better epic had Maximus had a rebirth beyond chemical ego. Told at a steady plod that takes Olson's ideas perhaps more seriously than warranted but that points steadily toward the writer's best work.

Pub Date: April 22, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-02958-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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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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