A tale that, though well known in outline, Maraniss enriches with his considerable skills as a writer and researcher.

PATH LIT BY LIGHTNING

THE LIFE OF JIM THORPE

A sensitive and compelling life of the great, ill-treated athlete Jim Thorpe (1887-1953).

Born into the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma, his birth name that of the title, Thorpe was an otherworldly athlete. As two-time Pulitzer winner and Washington Post associate editor Maraniss notes, Thorpe was so phenomenal that he remains “one of the few Native Americans of the twentieth century whom people could cite and praise even if they knew little else about the indigenous experience.” He excelled at every sport he played, making his coach at the Carlisle Indian School, Pop Warner, famous in the bargain. In 1912, Thorpe dazzled spectators at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, though his gold medals would soon be retracted after a newspaper reported that he had played pro baseball a couple of years earlier, violating the Games’ demands that participating athletes be amateurs. Maraniss rightly objects that in the aftermath, “most of the lies and feignings of innocence involved officials trying to save their own reputations, not his,” Warner and future U.S. Olympics head Avery Brundage among them. Thorpe spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name and have his Olympic record restored to him, alternating between poverty and one doomed business venture after another, moving from town to town to join various teams or escape his past. Of course, racism was a powerful element in Thorpe’s life, and Maraniss explores this topic with insight and nuance, just as he did in his biography of Roberto Clemente. Particularly pointed is the author’s closing anecdote about how Thorpe’s widow, apparently a skilled grifter, convinced a Pennsylvania town to rename itself after him with the promise of a well-funded hospital and other income-generating ventures; instead, it got his bones but nothing else.

A tale that, though well known in outline, Maraniss enriches with his considerable skills as a writer and researcher.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-476-74841-2

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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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 sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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