Addiction memoirs are ubiquitous, but a tale of addiction and consequences by the singular Self earns its shock and awe.

WILL

One of Britain’s most inspired writers employs his novelistic style in a chronicle of his addictions.

In this hybrid of memoir and novel—nominally nonfiction, although one wonders how a serious addict could recall so much—Self (Phone, 2017, etc.) offers a third-person, no-holds-barred tale of his fascinating life. The author has always worn his influences on his sleeve, so his readers won’t be surprised by this heady stew of J.G. Ballard, Hunter S. Thompson, and Philip K. Dick. Much of the narrative falls somewhere between Tony O’Neill’s drug-fueled ultraviolence and the grungy milieu of the self-destructive, filth-covered addicts of Trainspotting. Self’s hallucinatory journey begins in 1986 with 24-year-old Will, with 57 pence to his name, idly pondering stealing painkillers from a chemist’s shop. The book jumps back and forth through the 1980s as Self gets higher and higher, even while studying at Oxford, “hardly ever breaking cover.” The amount and diversity of the drugs are staggering; consider this nod to Thompson: “multicoloured collection of uppers, downers, twisters and screamers…namely: ten blotters of acid, a half-ounce of Pakki black, four black bombers, twenty-odd amphetamine blues, a couple of Mogadons Mike’d nicked from his mum and a bottle of amyl nitrate.” The prose is consistently spectacular, but the narrative is oblique, portraying the author’s troubled youth in moments and flashes. The supporting characters, while presumably real, are mostly generic with the exceptions of Chloë, the love of Self’s life, whom he ultimately abandoned before he could inevitably hurt her; and Caius, the spoiled junkie who accompanied Self on many of his (mis)adventures. Despite the author’s inevitable trip to rehab, this is no redemption song. From London to Marrakesh to India to Australia and back, Self delivers a hallucinatory, confessional version of his life devoid of melancholy and, mostly, regret.

Addiction memoirs are ubiquitous, but a tale of addiction and consequences by the singular Self earns its shock and awe.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-80-212846-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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