A celebrated Southern memoirist delivers a spirited book about a hell-raising dog and his effect on the author’s life.

THE SPECKLED BEAUTY

A DOG AND HIS PEOPLE, LOST AND FOUND

The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author puts a fresh spin on a classic theme: A wounded man rescues a wounded pet that in turn rescues him.

Bragg’s engaging tale of his life with an unruly Australian shepherd is the latest of his tragicomic memoirs of his family, which began with All Over but the Shoutin’ and continued with Ava’s Man and The Prince of Frogtown. Together, these books comprise one of the finest—and certainly the most comprehensive—group portraits of a poor, White Southern clan to appear in the past quarter-century. This installment finds the 60-year-old author back in Calhoun County, living in his mother’s basement (working “exactly eleven steps from where I go to sleep”) after bouts with pneumonia, heart and kidney failure, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that led to “chemo brain.” Lonely and depressed, Bragg took in an anarchic, one-eyed, badly injured dog named Speck that had run wild in woods and pastures but stuck with him. With typically deadpan wit, the author writes, “This did not mean I was his master, merely his alibi, coconspirator, bailsman, and the driver of his ambulance.” Speck tried to herd a one-ton truck, picked a fight with a cottonmouth, and acted as if “every wayward possum was a sign of the end times.” But when Speck reveled in simple joys on his mother’s farm, Bragg found that “to see a living thing that happy” was worth the difficulties. Their story ends with a few narrative threads dropped—one involving Bragg’s brother Sam, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during the writing of this book and died after its completion—but the abrupt conclusion doesn’t diminish an estimable cycle of books. Let’s hope they will someday appear in uniform editions with an introduction that would help readers see them all in context.

A celebrated Southern memoirist delivers a spirited book about a hell-raising dog and his effect on the author’s life.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65881-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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