The recent multitude of memoirists should take a page from Fox: Less really can be more.

THE COLDEST WINTER

A STRINGER IN LIBERATED EUROPE

Traveling in Eastern Europe just after the end of World War II, a young journalist sees destruction, desolation and despair, hears horrible stories, thinks about her own life, has an epiphany.

Fox’s first memoir (Borrowed Finery, 2001) recalled her childhood and youth. Here, in a style most spare, even austere, Fox records her struggles to begin a career and offers her insights about topics ranging from communism to fascism to race. She begins and ends in New York City, where she has spent most of her life, and tells us about the small miracles of the place—chance encounters with Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, an outing with Paul Robeson. Then she offers a snippet about her waitressing days in the Catskills to raise money for her 1946 trip abroad. In England, she works for a bit as a model, then finds employment with a small news service that sends her across the Channel to find post-war stories. In London, she enjoys Olivier in Lear and sees an inebriated Winston Churchill. She is shocked by the state of post-war Paris (“I sensed the tracks of the wolf,” she says). Later, she goes to Prague, then Warsaw during its fierce winter. She hears that when the snow melts, the bodies will begin to emerge. In the Tatra Mountains, she meets desperate children whose parents were murdered by Nazis. In Spain, she sees how fascism affects ordinary people and muses that the term political life “is so abstract until a cane is laid across one’s back.” Back in New York, now a tutor of troubled youth, she invites her charges one night to look through a powerful telescope. Her students are strangely silent afterwards, and Fox realizes how humbling it is to see beyond oneself.

The recent multitude of memoirists should take a page from Fox: Less really can be more.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7806-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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