A modest contribution compared to such classics such as Dispatches and A Rumor of War, but worthy of attention all the same.

MY DETACHMENT

A MEMOIR

A departure for Pulitzer Prize–winner Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains, 2003, etc.): a memoir recounting his time in Vietnam as a green lieutenant turned world-weary REMF.

Fresh out of Robert Fitzgerald’s creative writing seminar and the hip Cambridge scene, Harvard grad Kidder didn’t want to go to Vietnam, and for a time it looked like he wouldn’t have to—until the callow ROTC kid managed to irritate a colonel. Kidder finds himself dispatched in country to a behind-the-lines intelligence unit sorely short on the niceties of Army discipline. No sweat to him: “Why should I care if some of the men didn’t shave some mornings or the jeep needed paint? I hadn’t come here to harass troops. I opposed this war.” (The book’s nicely double-edged title says it all about his youthful self’s attitude.) Even so, he meets with ribbing, scorn and near-mutiny from many of his men. They come to accept him, though, and even to straighten up a little bit when he responds to a night attack by turning out wearing “steel pot and flak jacket and .45”—and nothing else. In this short account, Kidder concentrates on the absurdities of Army life, relating episodes in which he figures as a Yossarian surrounded by strange people who seem not to understand that what they’re doing is dangerous. The narrative, gracefully written and full of rueful, black humor, takes its time in gathering steam, but Kidder punctuates his leisurely account with zingers, like a scarifying letter to his onetime girlfriend, and bittersweet moments such as a visit to a Singapore brothel. Best of these is an encounter long after the war with one of his men, a Chicano boy who once reminded him in the field, “We can shoot you any time we want, Lieutenant.” The kid made it back home, only to return to Vietnam with the CIA.

A modest contribution compared to such classics such as Dispatches and A Rumor of War, but worthy of attention all the same.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-50615-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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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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