THE WOMAN WHO COULD NOT FORGET

IRIS CHANG BEFORE AND BEYOND THE RAPE OF NANKING

A life of the brilliant journalist and historian Iris Chang, who committed suicide in 2004, as told by her admiring mother.

In less than ten years, Iris Chang published three groundbreaking and critically acclaimed histories: Thread of the Silkworm (1995), about the creator of China’s Cold War missile program; The Rape of Nanking (1997), which exposed the atrocities committed by Japan against China during World War II; and The Chinese in America (2003), a wide-ranging immigrant cultural history. The intensity of her research and the respect those books earned would have made them the highlights of a long career. But Chang was only 36 when she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, leaving behind a husband and young son. In assembling this biography, Chang’s mother is more interested in praising her daughter’s accomplishments than contemplating her death, though there’s no question the accomplishments are worthy of a full narrative. Chang’s parents were both academic scientists, but at an early age she was attracted to literature instead; by the time she attended journalism school at the University of Illinois, she’d developed a hard-charging, hardworking persona that quickly opened doors for her. The New York Times used her as a stringer but eventually told her to ease up on submitting articles, for fear it was acquiring too many central-Illinois datelines. The story is brightened by generous excerpts from Chang’s letters to her parents, which reveal what a voracious reader, tireless researcher and attentive daughter she was. But this book is ultimately hagiography. As a grieving mother, she’s forgiven such indulgences, but her instinct to reflexively praise frustrates in the closing chapters, in which she overlooks signs of her daughter’s overwork and flatly blames antidepressants as the cause of Iris’ rapid depression and suicide. Nobody could expect objectivity from this book, but Chang’s perspective on her daughter seems willfully narrow.

 

Pub Date: May 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60598-172-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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