Hilarious collection of letters by the Russian-American maestro that must rank as one of the most contentious and eccentric of all time.  While there are no hefty literary gems here – Nabokov’s letters tend to be small, albeit glittery with intelligence, gleaming with style – fans of perverse masterpieces like Lolita and Ada won’t be disappointed.  Nabokov loved to duel, frolic, and tease.  Consider his evaluations of Dr. Zhivago (“that trashy, melodramatic, false, and inept book”) and Robert Lowell (“I do not mind Robert Lowell’s disliking my books, but I wish he would stop mutilating his betters – Mandelshtam, Rimbaud, and others.  I regret not having entitled my article ‘Rhyme and Punishment’”).  Or his response when asked what he’d like Neil Armstrong to say on the moon:  “I want a lump in his throat to obstruct the wisecrack.”  Or the jingle he sent in unsolicited to the Burma-Shave company:  “He passed two cars; then five; then seven;/and then he beat them all to Heaven.”  Other letters skirt the edge of his massive war with Edmund Wilson (the main battles don’t see print here); detail his run-ins with prudes over the publication of Lolita; trace his triple careers as lepidopterist, novelist, professor.  Even his political naiveté acquires in hindsight a certain quaint charm, as in this 1965 telegram to an ailing President Johnson:  “Wishing you a perfect recovery and a speedy return to the admirable work you are accomplishing.”  All in all, the portrait emerges of a brilliant, fussy, combative iconoclast who adopted a literary persona (filled with laughter, thank goodness) at an early age and never afterwards dropped his mask.  Devilish and baroque.  In other words, classic Nabokov.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1989

ISBN: 0156936100

Page Count: 624

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1989

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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 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...


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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