A volume offers entertaining essays about New Yorkers, perfect for passing time on an uptown subway ride.

Disappearing Act

In his second collection of personal essays, Soter (Overheard on a Bus, 2014, etc.) explores topics ranging from Alzheimer’s to improvisational comedy.

Soter is a native New Yorker—raised in a Greek-American family in an apartment on the Upper West Side’s Riverside Drive in the 1960s—and has spent a lifetime observing the city’s inhabitants and their lives. In this collection, he continues to provide readers with short essays based on these experiences. Soter’s background is in newspaper and magazine writing (for publications such as the New York Observer and Entertainment Weekly) and teaching improv comedy classes, and his witty, breezy essay style reflects this. Some of his pieces fit into the feuilleton tradition of clever cultural pieces; others would not be out of place in the New York Times’ “Lives” or “Metropolitan Diary” sections. Reading Soter’s essays is like spending an afternoon with an uncle at a Manhattan diner, drinking coffee and savoring stories the listener has probably heard before but still finds enjoyable. While Soter’s essays might not be rigorous, they are generally engaging and satisfying. If they favor the quick and cute over the analytical or penetrating, it is by design. “Sentimental?” Soter writes, defiantly. “Mawkish? Self-involved? I plead guilty to all charges. That’s who I am. Live with it.” While there is certainly shared subject matter between the author’s previous and current essay volumes, the latter is at times a bit more somber and nostalgic. There are fewer discussions of pop-culture obsessions and celebrity encounters and more meditations on loss and the passage of time. He writes of his parents’ illnesses and the death of a favorite great uncle, of first jobs and childhood friends. Throughout, though, Soter remains committed to the guiding philosophy he states at the book’s beginning: “When I think of the vagaries of life—and its cruelties—I often think of the comment my first improv teacher once made: ‘Life is a big joke—it only hurts if you don’t laugh.’ ” The illustrated book provides over 100 photographs and reproductions of print ephemera.

A volume offers entertaining essays about New Yorkers, perfect for passing time on an uptown subway ride.   

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5027-1335-3

Page Count: 206

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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