We are fortunate to have this late work of Hurston’s, which is sure to be widely read.

BARRACOON

THE STORY OF THE LAST "BLACK CARGO"

A newly discovered work of anthropological and historical reportage by the canonical African-American writer.

Cudjo Lewis (c. 1841-1935), originally named Kossola, was enslaved in America for five years. An Isha Yoruba from the town of Bantè, he arrived in Alabama as the Civil War was stirring. A student of the pioneering ethnologist Franz Boas, Hurston (Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales from the Gulf States, 2001, etc.) conducted a series of interviews with Lewis toward the end of his life, in 1927, who, on learning of her interest, said, “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe day go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossola.’ ” The initial manuscript, a scholarly article, fell into disrepute when, in the 1970s, scholars discerned that it borrowed heavily from existing literature. This fuller manuscript derives from Hurston’s original fieldwork, so that there is no question of plagiarism. Editor Plant observes that in the work, Hurston “was engaged in the process of actualizing her vision of herself as a social scientist and an artist who was determined to present Kossola’s story in as authentic a manner as possible.” That authenticity includes rendering his words in patois. While Hurston writes that even though Kossola’s account is not strictly historical, it serves “to emphasize his remarkable memory.” That mark of the griot, or West African traditional storyteller, is evident as Kossola recounts moments of resistance, as when enslaved women rose up against a vicious overseer: “dey all jump on him and lashee him wid it. He doan never try whip Affican women no mo’.” Such episodes, including one in which Kossola tried to convince his former owner to give the manumitted slaves some of the land on which he worked, are historically valuable indeed, while his renderings of biblical stories and West African folktales are of ethnographic interest.

We are fortunate to have this late work of Hurston’s, which is sure to be widely read.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274820-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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