A richly introspective biography sure to rekindle interest in Hardy’s writing.

THOMAS HARDY

THE TIME-TORN MAN

Another wonderfully readable life by veteran biographer and journalist Tomalin (Samuel Pepys, 2002, etc.).

She always builds a good story, and this slow but touching biography of the mild-mannered provincial architect from Dorchester who created seething novels about inequity and thwarted ambition is no exception. Tomalin begins at the death in 1912 of Hardy’s once-beloved first wife Emma, from whom he grew estranged in their last years; evidently he began to compose poetry seriously at this juncture as a way of revisiting their romance and his early life. Born in 1840 to a domestic servant who had to hurry up and get married before his birth, Hardy later became aware that he was an unwanted child whose existence stunted his mother’s chances of bettering herself. He served as an apprentice to an architect in Dorchester, then quit to seek his literary fortunes in London, attending reform meetings and making publishing contacts. After marrying wellborn Cornishwoman Emma Gifford, he settled back in Dorset to build his own house and live quietly among the laboring villagers. The humiliating rejection of his early novels rankled, and for many years after he finally got published, it was in serial form for quick money, much like Dickens and Eliot. Far from the Madding Crowd, which delineated the grim rural life that Hardy knew intimately, made his reputation as a socialist, feminist and gorgeous describer of nature. Hardy’s worldview grew more pessimistic, “marked by a fierce questioning of accepted ideas about society,” and it is evidenced in works including The Return of the Native, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Hardy’s bleak rewrite of the Book of Job, Jude the Obscure. Tomalin thoughtfully considers these works, and the poignant marriage of Hardy to Em, in a text brimming with insight.

A richly introspective biography sure to rekindle interest in Hardy’s writing.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2007

ISBN: 1-59420-118-8

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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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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