Gossipy at times, mostly serious about literary life, and always smoothly written.

A LIFE OF MY OWN

The acclaimed literary editor and biographer offers an extraordinarily candid autobiography.

Readers hoping for background on how Tomalin (Charles Dickens: A Life, 2011, etc.) chose the subjects of her acclaimed biographies—Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Hardy, among other major figures—may be somewhat disappointed, but this is an elegant, significant book nonetheless. The author does not mention launching biography writing as her vocation until more than halfway through the book. Readers seeking a detailed account of Tomalin’s influential life within British letters will certainly celebrate her honest perceptions of herself, her parents and in-laws, husbands, children, other authors and editors, publishers, tycoons, and other important historical figures. After she married journalist Nick Tomalin, the author’s life felt adventurous almost every day. Nick was a talented writer, a handsome charmer, and a philanderer whose romantic exploits Claire usually tolerated. She undertook extramarital romances, as well, though far fewer than her husband. Still, she and Nick had four children before he died in 1973 during a battle in Israel, where he had been sent on assignment by a British publication. About the period, she writes, “suddenly I found myself living through the most banal of stories, as the neglected wife of a faithless husband….My role now was as the boring suburban wife with too many children who held him back.” As a widow, Tomalin found love with a much younger Martin Amis, among other suitors. She provided for her family with full-time editing jobs (New StatesmanSunday Times, etc.), part-time freelancing as a literary critic, and her biographies. Her life has also seen tragedy: Her son (“an inspiration to me”) suffers from a lifelong severe physical birth defect as well as learning disabilities, and one of her three daughters committed suicide. At age 60, the author married again, this time to accomplished playwright Michael Frayn.

Gossipy at times, mostly serious about literary life, and always smoothly written.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-56291-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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