Western Americana and literary history by the Pulitzer-winning novelist. Now 80, Stegner here reviews his life in part, the West as writers have written about it, its landscape and the ever-changing effect of humanity upon it, and so on. Stegner believes that the West is finally coming into its own as a literary entity distinct from what eastern critics have found in it. Even so, he warns, "without a more developed and cohesive society than the West, in its short life and against all the handicaps of revolutionary change and dispersion, has been able to grow—and without a native audience for its native arts—there may come a time in a writer's career when the clutch of the imagination will no longer take hold on the materials that are most one's own." That sentence points up Stegner's strengths and flaws: It digs into his subject of change and fragility both in landscape and citizenry, but does so in a voice more academic than earthy. Ever in search of the loamy detail, one reads through this collection of recent magazine essays and introductions to Stegner's own and others' books and finds less appeal to the senses than the wise overview, rich in itself but not rich in words. The best essay by far is a sigh-heavy memoir of his mother, "Letter, Much Too Late," written some 50 years after her death, with her breath and heartbeat moved into the reader's own chest. Stegner's friendships with writers such as Walter Van Tilburg Clark and Wendell Berry ring with praise, as do his comments on John Steinbeck, Norman Maclean, and George Stewart. And one feels deeply rewarded by Stegner's wisdom about population shifts, the five or six main types of landscape, and his words about conservation, deadly dams, and the death of the desert. Absolutely worthwhile, but highly charged only here and there.

Pub Date: March 1, 1992

ISBN: 0375759328

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1992

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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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