A deeply emotional, intellectual, and literary examination of the Holocaust, framed through one man's journey to a small Polish town in which 2,000 Jews were executed by the Germans in 1941. Novelist Karlin (Lost Armies, not reviewed, etc.) took ``a self-imposed journey into the blurred space between memory, story and reality'' in the summer of 1993. The occasion was Karlin's visit to Kolno, a Polish town where his mother had lived before emigrating to this country—and the later scene of what Karlin aptly describes as ``a small, almost casual `action,' a tiny thread in the tapestry of murder.'' Karlin uses this journey as a literary jumping-off point to chronicle his mother's life and times, his own experience as a Marine in Vietnam, and his postwar emotional upheavals. Jumping back and forth in time, Karlin also weaves into this narrative a meditation on the literature of the Vietnam War as it's been practiced by veterans of that conflict—both American and Vietnamese—and an examination of the American massacre of Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. The ``rumors'' of the title refers to Karlin's mother's family stories, which, he says, ``grew from the real world'' but also ``were like dreams or rumors, their codes locked in her own references and memories, more riddles than guides.'' Karlin retells those stories and then fashions them into dreamlike fictional tales that he inserts among the book's more orderly and essaylike narrative chapters. There are several references to ``stones,'' including those customarily placed atop gravestones by Jews and the ground-up gravestones used by the Germans to pave the roads at the Treblinka death camp. The literary ``rumors'' chapters are sometimes slightly disconcerting, but they are as powerfully evoked and as emotionally penetrating as are the reportorial sections. A deft melding of disparate narratives, forming a unique and valuable addition to the literature of the Holocaust.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-880684-42-X

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Curbstone Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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