Both the incisiveness and the perspective—of a civilian professor and the military students she loves and mourns—enrich...

NO MAN'S LAND

PREPARING FOR WAR AND PEACE IN POST-9/11 AMERICA

A singular mix of literary criticism and memoir from a West Point English professor who helps plebes mold the mindset that prepares future officers for war.

Samet (Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point2007) began teaching the freshman literature course at West Point in 1997 and considers this “the most important trust I have been given in my professional life.” Throughout this book, she mediates between the universality of great literature—and popular culture in general—and the specific psychic demands placed on the military, not only in combat, but in re-entry to civilian life. In the process, she encompasses everything from the Odyssey and Shakespeare to War and Peace to Catch-22 (which she initially loved but found harder to read the more experience she had with former students dying in battle), with side excursions into baseball, boxing and motorcycle gangs. She explains how the latter arose in the aftermath of World War II, from vets who had difficulty adjusting to the routines of domesticity. She quotes one former student–turned-biker on the sensation of “being in control and out of control simultaneously. On the very razor’s edge….It’s that same…feeling that follows you everywhere in a combat zone.” The title refers to, among other things, the transition by soldiers coming home who have yet to leave the war behind—“a terrain that seems as strange as it ever was: a no man’s land peopled by ghosts yet by the living, too. War vertigo is the order of the day….” This is a book about narrative, about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives, about the revisions we make when those stories no longer cohere, about endings that don’t provide resolution, let alone the cliché of closure.

Both the incisiveness and the perspective—of a civilian professor and the military students she loves and mourns—enrich readers’ appreciation for the psychological complexities of war and its aftermath.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-22277-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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