Poetic, inspiring proof that you can go home again.

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SOMEHOW FORM A FAMILY

STORIES THAT ARE MOSTLY TRUE

Ten homespun personal essays—most published elsewhere—from the author of last year’s acclaimed novel Jim the Boy.

Earley grew up in a small-town, kudzu-covered corner of North Carolina more recognizable as the terrain of Thomas Wolfe than that of Dorothy Allison. Seven of these pieces explore his early years there, as a 1960s television acolyte, a squirrel-hunting dilettante, and, through it all, an astute, heartbreaking observer of the idiosyncratic people around him. The title story, which appeared in Harper’s, serves as an introduction to this American boyhood, wholly transformed by a color, Zenith television set, replete with rooftop antenna. As the cornerstone entry here, a masterful exercise in metaphor, it’s hard to imagine what more the author could have to articulate about his young life. But Earley thankfully only has more trenchant memories to spin. With “Hallway,” in an equally unadorned language, but with more deeply felt remembrances, Earley recalls, with a child’s perception, his extended family’s peculiarities and his own fearful awe of his grandfather. A look at the odd Scots-derived Appalachian dialect of his youth (“The Quare Gene”) leads to a reflection on the “shared history” that the author is losing with his highland ancestors. A similar wistfulness pervades “Granny’s Bridge,” a tribute to a time when crossing a bridge—and certainly not one to the 21st century—could enhance a person’s outlook. In “Ghost Stories,” Earley takes his wife to New Orleans to investigate the haunted city: “We are looking for ghosts, but, I think, a good story will do.” And the final piece (“Tour de Fax”), another gem from Harper’s, follows him on a record-setting circumnavigational flight, recorded stop by stop in under 32 hours. Earley’s skewering of the trip’s corporate sponsors is good fun, and his capstone epiphany—that where he ended up, at home, is the only place he’d fly around the world to get to—rings true.

Poetic, inspiring proof that you can go home again.

Pub Date: May 25, 2001

ISBN: 1-56512-302-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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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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