Though sometimes overly detailed, this is a top-notch exploration of one of the most important midcentury writers.

THE LIFE OF SAUL BELLOW

LOVE AND STRIFE, 1965-2005

Leader (English Literature/Roehampton Univ.) concludes his exemplary life of the famed Canadian-American writer whose literary successes were matched by familial psychodramas, feuds, and other such mishegoss.

As the author picks up from The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964 (2015), the subject of his biography has attained great fame and fortune. Henderson the Rain King (1959) has had five years to make waves, building on earlier books such as The Adventures of Augie March and Dangling Man, and now Herzog (1964) is out, nearly universally hailed and climbing the charts, “supplanting John Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” on the bestseller lists. At the time, however, Bellow was not satisfied. Having established himself as a top-flight novelist, he tried his hand at a play that ran for only a month and received some of the toughest reviews of his career, along with a note from Lillian Hellman that Bellow summarized as “I’ve written a lot of interesting soliloquies, but there’s not a play in sight.” Undaunted, Bellow returned to prose with a vengeance, putting into practice his pronounced habit of taking every element from real life and conversation and working it into his fictional narratives. Leader ably charts Bellow’s continuing evolution as a writer, which will cheer his fans: Bellow matched talent, after all, with an impressive work ethic. Less cheering are his relationships with children, lovers, and spouses, all of which involved considerable drama and, even on his deathbed, shouting and recriminations. His cantankerousness punctuates almost every page, as when he explodes in anger over a companion’s going off to see a popular movie while he attended his son’s wedding: “By eroding the standards of a wide literate audience,” Leader glosses, “M*A*S*H was debasing as well as debased." Always hard at work and always in battle mode, Bellow emerges as a brilliant writer who never minded being disliked—and offered many reasons to do so.

Though sometimes overly detailed, this is a top-notch exploration of one of the most important midcentury writers.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-87516-2

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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