Editor Davison (English/De Montfort Univ.) supplies necessary contextual information and footnotes generously, but stays in...

DIARIES

A co-editor of George Orwell’s Complete Works offers a lushly annotated edition of Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949.

Born Eric Arthur Blair, Orwell, as these diaries reveal, lived a varied and even dichotomized life. A reader who visited the majority of these pages could never guess that they recorded the activities of the author of Animal FarmKeep the Aspidistra Flying and 1984, a book he completed while suffering from the tuberculosis that would kill him. (Among the most poignant pages here are Orwell’s lists of his hospital routines just weeks before he died.) Many of the author’s entries deal with his activities on his farm. We learn how many eggs his hens laid each day, his battles with hungry rabbits and deer, his killing of the occasional snake, his observations of the weather, and his maintenance of the property. One moment of great excitement was his near-death in a whirlpool in the Gulf of Corryvreckran. Earlier sections of the diary deal with his abject poverty in the 1930s. He traveled around picking hops (a process he describes in some detail); he was down and out in Paris and London; he traveled to the Mediterranean. In all these places, he noted human customs and flora and fauna. In 1939, Orwell kept daily track of events that were leading toward world war but interwove odd moments about earwigs, a dead cat and the properties of goat manure. In the diary he kept during World War II, he found himself becoming accustomed to continual bombing in London. He joined the Home Guard but noted that their rickety weapons would hardly retard the expected German invasion.

Editor Davison (English/De Montfort Univ.) supplies necessary contextual information and footnotes generously, but stays in the shadows and allows us to truly enjoy Orwell’s impressive chronicles.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-871-40410-7

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

more