An excellent start to understanding a writer and her work.

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A MEMOIR WITH SELECTED PHOTOGRAPHS AND LETTERS

Tantalizing glimpses into the life of a recently-discovered writer.

More than a decade after Berlin (1936-2004) died, A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories was published, and she began to find readers (Manual was a finalist for the 2015 Kirkus Prize). In a biographical note that first appeared in Manual, Stephen Emerson writes that Berlin lived a "rather flamboyant existence." This book is certainly evidence of that. The first part is an unfinished memoir chronologically organized by the places she lived, with photographs from her son. It’s the story of a child, then woman, who lived an itinerant existence. Born in Alaska to a father who had to travel for work, the family moved to Idaho and then Kentucky, Montana, Idaho, Texas, and elsewhere. Berlin describes each home in exquisite, imagistic language, providing insights into how her unique writing style evolved. In Helena, a man’s cabin is “an unpainted hut, really, with windows that looked like eyes and a door that was a goofy crooked smile.” In a list of more than 30 of her residences, she crisply describes each—e.g., “House Edward Abbey had lived in. Only one burner worked. Filthy.” And later: “No catastrophe. So far.” A lengthy stay in Santiago, Chile, where she learned Spanish, went well, but her life was filled with hardship, alcoholism, drunken and addicted husbands, and money problems. There’s very little here about her reading and writing, but clearly, the life lived is the inspiration for her stories. The second part contains letters written from 1944 to 1965 revealing a conflicted, anguished young writer. Most are to friend and mentor Ed Dorn, the Black Mountain School poet. In college, she wrote Dorn about sudden ambitions, and in the same letter, “I’m just so fouled up.” In 1960: “I am so miserable. I have never been so afraid and unhappy….I believe…I am a writer…even believe that I am a good one.”

An excellent start to understanding a writer and her work.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-28759-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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