Uses a spatula to apply icing rather than a blade to slice and reveal.

HIDING MAN

A BIOGRAPHY OF DONALD BARTHELME

The author of Snow White and numerous other postmodern classics gets a generous biography from a former student.

Though well researched, this is an old-fashioned, fond celebration rather than a dispassionate analysis of Donald Barthelme’s life (1931–89). Novelist Daugherty (English and Creative Writing/Oregon State Univ.; Late in the Standoff, 2005, etc.) begins and ends with appreciative, affecting memories of his encounters with Barthelme during the 1980s, first as professor and grad student at the University of Houston, then as friends. The pages in between take a traditional look at a most unusual man and writer. Daugherty sketches the family’s history in Texas, spending considerable time on the substantial architectural career of Barthelme’s father, also named Donald. The biographer then glances at young Don’s childhood and early manhood, noting numerous Oedipal conflicts that would crop up again. He points to the influences of Thurber and Perelman and the New Yorker, which later gave Barthelme his biggest break and most frequent exposure—though fiction editor Roger Angell never let his championship of the writer keep him from rejecting work he considered inferior. Daugherty usefully explores his subject’s considerable background and expertise in the visual arts; Barthelme managed a Houston museum for a time and worked on an art magazine in New York. Married three times, he remained on genial terms with wives one and two, sired two daughters and loved women till throat cancer ended it all. He drank a lot too, and his biographer seems to see booze more as a creative lubricant than a smiling but bitter enemy. Barthelme enjoyed positive reviews until near the end of his life, when he left New York and returned to teach at the University of Houston, where the author avers he was treated as the great celebrity he indeed was in the literary world. Daugherty loves Barthelme’s fiction, seldom uttering a discouraging word, and views his subject with affectionate, grateful eyes.

Uses a spatula to apply icing rather than a blade to slice and reveal.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37868-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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 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

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...

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

Did you like this book?

more