A fresh and instructive investigation of three iconic lives and minds.

MIDNIGHT

THREE WOMEN AT THE HOUR OF RECKONING

What were Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Arc thinking and feeling during their hours of deepest crisis and despair?

Shorr (Backlands, 2015), who co-founded the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles, combines sturdy biographical research with some flights of imagination to portray three different women caught in the vises of three very different sets of circumstances. Austen (1775-1817), Shelley (1797-1851), and Joan of Arc (1412-1431)—each faced considerable darkness but persisted until light appeared. Austen found herself growing older with no marriage prospects and “without a penny to her name”—then picked up her pen; Shelley had to deal with the deaths of three of her children and a husband (poet Percy Bysshe Shelley) whose eye roamed before he drowned, leaving Mary widowed at 25; Joan, after winning battles for France, was captured and knew a flaming death at the stake would be her fate. In all three stories, Shorr employs a similar strategy, interweaving historical and biographical facts with imagined actions, thoughts, and dialogue. She is not explicit about the connections among the women’s lives; she does not point out, for instance, that neither Percy Shelley’s nor Joan’s heart burned in the flames that consumed their bodies: Shelley’s, a cremation on the beach at Viareggio; Joan’s, a fiery execution in Rouen. Regardless, the author’s voyages into the minds of the women are impressive. Joan battles with another “Joan,” whom the author calls “Girl X,” a timorous version of herself who wants only to live. Mary comes to terms with her husband’s infatuations with other women, deciding each is more muse than potential lover. Jane realizes that her work, “that spark she’d trusted, had caught fire, and lit her life.” The detail is a little thick in the Mary section, and the text is a little long in Joan’s.

A fresh and instructive investigation of three iconic lives and minds.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-65278-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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