A brief, adequate memoir in which the author attempts to decipher his complicated, multilayered childhood in order to...

ALL HAPPY FAMILIES

A MEMOIR

A French writer takes a close look at his family’s dysfunctional dynamics.

Le Tellier (Eléctrico W, 2013, etc.)—a member of Oulipo, the eccentric French group of writers and mathematicians who seek to create works within constrained writing techniques—places his life under the microscope to examine his childhood and the people and places that affected him throughout his life. He shares intimate and minute details about his great-grandparents, grandparents, father, mother, and stepfather and how each person changed him as he was growing up. Sometimes the changes were subtle, other times more profound, but the author explores each with the advantage of age and wisdom looking back at youth. Le Tellier focuses in particular on his mother and her childhood before moving on to chronicle how she treated him poorly as a young adult and the incredible lies she told him. Much of her behavior was caused by the fact that she was likely “crazy” and “had lost touch with reality.” Eventually, writes the author, her “madness descended into burlesque.” Nonetheless, Le Tellier longed for his mother’s love; then she became ill with Alzheimer’s, and the situation deteriorated further. In some of the more moving moments, the author reflects on what life was like in France under the Nazis, how deeply he was affected by a film on the concentration camps, and how the deaths of important childhood friends and a girlfriend have impacted his life. Through the process of writing this memoir, it’s apparent Le Tellier is coming to terms with the many fraught relationships of his life and the successes and disappointments he experienced during his youth. The writing is unquestionably sincere, but the story is overly particular and may not resonate much beyond the author’s intimate circle.

A brief, adequate memoir in which the author attempts to decipher his complicated, multilayered childhood in order to understand the adult he is today.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-937-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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