A vivid portrait of the early years of an author of astounding vision, who predicted many of the horrors of the 20th century.

THE YOUNG H.G. WELLS

CHANGING THE WORLD

The acclaimed literary biographer delivers a compelling portrait of the formative years of the iconic British author.

Tomalin chronicles the early life of H.G. Wells (1866-1946), who drew on his scientific knowledge and prophetic vision to write some of the most thrilling books of his era. Tomalin paints a picture of a young man desperate and determined to succeed. His family endured genteel poverty, and his mother, a housekeeper, determined that his best shot at success was to apprentice as a draper. Fortunately for future readers, Wells hated the position and “made up his mind to behave badly.” While teaching at a boarding school, he was beaten severely in a rugby game and might have died had his resourceful mother not nursed him back to health at the estate where she worked—and where the convalescing young man absorbed the estate’s magnificent library. From there, a series of lucky breaks propelled Wells to fame and eventual fortune. He won a fellowship to study under Thomas Huxley, foremost English scientist of the age, and his scientific grounding became the eventual foundation for his early novels: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds. Wells accurately predicted cross-channel air travel, tank warfare, and aerial bombings. His fiction, writes Tomalin, “reads like reporting of things seen touched and heard.” Wells was a renegade, which enlivens the already engaging narrative. An ardent believer in free love, he pursued multiple extramarital affairs, the most notorious of which was a liaison with the daughter of close friends that produced a child. Tomalin covers her subject’s many shortcomings, but she has an empathy for him and a deep understanding of a young man impelled to reach for everything within his grasp. She ends her story with Wells in his early 40s, noting that she was reluctant to part company with this complicated genius. Readers of this excellent biography will agree.

A vivid portrait of the early years of an author of astounding vision, who predicted many of the horrors of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984879-02-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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