A memoir that would have radiated greater power as a long-form magazine article.

UNCENSORED

MY LIFE AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS AT THE INTERSECTION OF BLACK AND WHITE AMERICA

Still in his early 20s, Wood chronicles his arduous upbringing as a black male, including his 15 minutes of fame (so far) while a college student.

Growing up, the author developed impressive intelligence and a dedicated character, but he had to battle a controlling, abusive mother suffering from bipolar disorder, his parents’ divorce, and struggles to pay for an elite education. The detailed accounting of his upbringing comprises more than three-quarters of the narrative; the renown does not arrive until Page 200. Wood was a student at Williams College in rural Massachusetts. Upset at the closed-minded nature of college students when given the opportunity to hear campus speakers sometimes labeled racist, sexist, homophobic, or politically extremist, the author became involved in the initiative Uncomfortable Learning. Some of the speakers he wanted to invite faced a veto from the Williams administration. Others, such as Charles Murray, were able to deliver their presentations and then engage in dialogue with the students. Wood received widespread national media attention as a result, and he is currently Robert L. Bartley fellow at the Wall Street Journal. The early part of the book, a mostly chronological account of Wood’s challenging life, offers pointed insight into the struggles of growing up black among often wealthy whites. However, the circumstances of Wood’s daily existence don’t engage with enough universal truths about race, financial struggles, and other similar topics. The author, who writes well, is a sympathetic narrator, and he has unquestionably displayed an impressive work ethic and devotion to free speech. But after the insight offered through his personal history, the analysis tails off, and his father, one of the most intriguing characters in the story, is somewhat of a spectral presence. As he continues to mature, expect Wood to grow as a writer and further the dialogues he sketches here.

A memoir that would have radiated greater power as a long-form magazine article.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4244-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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