Scholars will deplore the dearth of documentation, but general readers will delight in this tale of a randy rapscallion who...

A VOYAGE ROUND JOHN MORTIMER

THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE CREATOR OF RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY

An authorized biography of the peripatetic, priapic and enormously prolific octogenarian who still rises at dawn to the pages of blank foolscap he fills with astonishing speed and craft.

British journalist Grove (Laurie Lee: The Well-Loved Stranger, 1999, etc.) gained Mortimer’s permission to interview him continually, to peruse his papers and to interview his intimates. She was there to celebrate with him when he learned in 2004 that he had a son, born to actress Wendy Craig in 1961. No mere book can contain the titanic Sir John. His professional life seems preternaturally productive: myriad pieces of journalism and scripts for theater, TV, cinema and radio as well as novels. (Grove summarizes some of the fiction, though she says oddly little about the hugely successful Rumpole series.) Oh, and until 1983 he appeared regularly in court to argue legal cases, favoring issues of free speech and often representing those charged with pornography. The list of his writings runs to five pages (only one less than the extremely skimpy endnotes). His sex life has been nearly as prodigious. (He even made a move—sort of—on his biographer.) A serial adulterer, Mortimer wed twice. First wife Penelope was a gifted novelist in her own right, best known for The Pumpkin Eater (1962). They were divorced in 1971, and four months later he married the much younger Penny, who has remained to help him through the indignities of his 80s, making possible much of his continuing creative life. Grove explores Mortimer’s childhood as the son of a noted legal scholar (subject of his play A Voyage Round My Father), education at Harrow and Oxford (where he had sexual attractions to other lads), beginnings as a writer and transformation into rumpled Sir John, an icon in contemporary English culture.

Scholars will deplore the dearth of documentation, but general readers will delight in this tale of a randy rapscallion who found time between dalliances to create some enduringly popular works of fiction and drama.

Pub Date: June 2, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01880-2

Page Count: 542

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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