Meandering stylistics undermine episodes of solid reportage.

SPRINGER MOUNTAIN

MEDITATIONS ON KILLING AND EATING

Scattered reflections on the intersections of humans, animals, and food.

This book is a prime example of an author not being precisely sure where he is going or why. The first half is a confounding, fragmented ramble, caroming in time, place, and subject matter from vegetarian philosophies of the 19th century to slaughtering chickens to arcane asides from around the globe. Presumably, this is all in aid of answering Williams’ fundamental questions: Why do we kill animals, why do we eat them, and how does it define us? Despite years of research, his only answer won’t be news to many readers: “We are predators, killers. We are good at it. We like it.” One would expect something more substantial and cohesive from a writer such as Williams, a former restaurant critic who has spent years contemplating food and eating, but much of the narrative suffers from self-indulgence. However, around the midway point, Williams jettisons his muddled meditations and employs a straightforward narrative that reveals his capabilities as a writer. The author’s vivid observations on the town of Barrow, Alaska, its people, and subsistence whaling are the highlight of the book. Along the way, he offers some telling insights on why we collect and display things: in part to make the world knowable, somehow less daunting in its immensity and diversity, in the way “maps, museums, books and farms try to do.” But Williams also knows the world “isn’t reducible in that way; it can’t be understood in a glance.” Near the end of the text, the author realizes his own intent, admitting that so many stories about the world are often about the person telling them. “The longer my inquiry went on, the less clear my intentions became,” he writes. One might say the same thing of the book.

Meandering stylistics undermine episodes of solid reportage.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4696-6548-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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