An enviable life shared with candor, emotion, and knockout storytelling power.

THESE PRECIOUS DAYS

ESSAYS

In a series of essays, the beloved novelist opens the door and invites you into her world.

As she herself is aware, Patchett has a gift for friendship—never clearer than in the magical and heartbreaking title essay, which made the rounds from friend to friend by way of texted links when originally published in Harper’sduring the pandemic. (If you haven't read it yet, get ready for Tom Hanks, Kundalini yoga, cancer treatment, and a profound yearning to be a guest in Patchett's Nashville home.) Like This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage(2013), this book contains a mixture of occasional essays and profound ones, all previously published. Patchett includes the text of a wonderful lecture on her "feral" experience in graduate school in Iowa and an introduction written for the collected stories of Eudora Welty that seems as perfect as the stories themselves. In addition to family and friendship—"Three Fathers" and "Flight Plan" are standouts in this category—several essays deal with aspects of the writing life. The author explores the process of managing one’s papers and offers various angles on how one comes to the vocation of literature. "Influence," she writes, "is a combination of circumstance and luck: what we are shown and what we stumble upon in those brief years when our hearts and minds are fully open." Patchett also writes delightfully about Snoopy, the cartoon beagle and would-be novelist, first among her literary influences. Toward the end of the book, Patchett digs into Updike, Bellow, and Roth. Perhaps a few of the slighter pieces could have been left out, but even those have great lines and interesting paragraphs. A bracingly testy essay about the author’s decision not to have children will give readers crucial pointers on conversational gambits to avoid should you ever get that houseguest invitation.

An enviable life shared with candor, emotion, and knockout storytelling power.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-309278-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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