Moving and honest, if a trifle claustrophobic: Mehta’s scrupulous attention to detail makes his account astonishing vivid...

ALL FOR LOVE

CONTINENTS OF EXILE

Four Girls and a Doctor: Mehta offers his recollections of the mostly unhappy love affairs that preoccupied his early years in New York, and of the psychoanalyst who helped him get over them.

As a memoirist, Mehta (A Ved Mehta Reader, 1998, etc.) has made a career out of the rather extraordinary circumstances of his childhood and education. The son of a cultured and well-connected physician, Mehta grew up in India and nearly died of meningitis when he was four. Although he recovered, the raging fever brought on by the disease left him permanently blind. Since there were no schools for the blind in India at the time, Mehta was given an informal education at home by his father, and in 1949 (at 15), he traveled by himself to America and enrolled in a school for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas. He later studied at Oxford and did graduate work at Harvard. This volume describes his early years in New York during the 1960s, when he was working as a staff writer at the New Yorker and beginning to establish his reputation as an essayist and journalist of renown. Most of the author’s recollections here, however, are of the various women he fell in love with during that time. Some of the affairs (with the dancer Gigi, for instance) were uncomplicated and relatively harmless, but others (such as his long romance with a poet and graduate student named Kilty, whom he nearly married) failed spectacularly and left the author in deep depressions that took years of therapy to undo. The last section of the account depicts Mehta’s dealing with one Dr. Bak, a Hungarian psychoanalyst who helped him sort out his feelings towards his lovers and himself.

Moving and honest, if a trifle claustrophobic: Mehta’s scrupulous attention to detail makes his account astonishing vivid and real, although many of the particular details (e.g., the prostate treatments he underwent to overcome his supposed impotence) are a tad more informative than necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56025-321-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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