An odd but enthusiastic mix of schoolgirl anecdote, American travelogue and mysticism.

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THE MESSAGE

A TRUE STORY

Sebastian’s debut memoir, ranging from a French boarding school to life in Texas, describes the near-death experience that prompted her belief in God.

As Unbelievable / And Even At Times Impossible / As They Might Seem / These Events Are All Real,” Sebastian claims in an overblown epigraph to her spiritual memoir. This might suggest a fantastical story, but it’s a straightforward, chronological account of Sebastian’s teens and 20s—with a mystical experience appended. The book begins with Sebastian leaving Spain for Largenté, a strict Catholic boarding school in southwest France. She deftly paints her falsely rosy picture of what an all-girls school would be like: “…pillow fights, girl chats by the Dorm’s fireplace, giggling in lacy gowns dreaming of a romantic future while braiding our hair.” Instead, arriving late on her first day, she was given penance for not addressing the nuns by proper titles. She quickly learned to stifle her individuality and perform rote actions unquestioningly. Influenced by Stoics and existentialists, Sebastian was melancholy until a new friend, Michelle, arrived from Houston. Intrigued by Michelle’s yearbooks, Sebastian decided to move to Texas after graduation. College presented a difficult decision between two suitors as well as much agonizing over evolution. Though unconvinced by the theory, Sebastian resisted the seeming alternative of superstitious religion—until a spring break car accident that should have killed her (she incurred multiple skull fractures and brain hematomas, as evidenced in the appendix’s medical reports) convinced her of God’s existence. Like Blaise Pascal, she had a mystical experience in which she heard Jesus speak. Sebastian vividly evokes each setting and remembers her teen angst with notable recreated dialogue, but the religious preoccupation feels like a hidden agenda. Still, she often writes lyrically, as when remembering “the blended mist of calming beauty and inner inquietude.” Possessives, plurals, verb forms, punctuation and capitalization pose problems—“The three of us joined the large group of girls going together towards the Hallway leading to the English Language class”—in addition to homonym slips and dangling modifiers; all could be ameliorated by a native speaker’s thorough edit. Additionally, translation of every French phrase feels superfluous.

An odd but enthusiastic mix of schoolgirl anecdote, American travelogue and mysticism.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499756555

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2018

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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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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