Despite occasional fictional flourishes, these forgotten friendships, from illicit and scandalous to radical and inspiring,...

A SECRET SISTERHOOD

THE LITERARY FRIENDSHIPS OF JANE AUSTEN, CHARLOTTE BRONTË, GEORGE ELIOT, AND VIRGINIA WOOLF

Rich and revealing portraits of four literary friendships.

Because female authors are so often “mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses,” Midorikawa and Sweeney (Owl Song at Dawn, 2016), both teachers at New York University in London, set out to uncover overlooked friendships. As Margaret Atwood puts it in the foreword, the authors successfully “retrace forgotten footsteps, and tap into emotional undercurrents.” The close relationship between Jane Austen and Anne Sharp would be lost if it wasn’t for Jane’s niece, Fanny, whose writings included much information about her governess, Anne, who liked to pen theatricals. It turns out Jane had “deep affection” for Anne, her “most treasured confidante.” Over the years, on and off, they “would find all sorts of ways to support each other’s endeavors.” Jane “treated Anne as her most trusted literary friend.” Charlotte Brontë and the pioneering feminist writer Mary Taylor were “good friends” despite quite differing personalities. Taylor was energetic and political while Charlotte was quiet and diffident. So when Mary wrote to her that Jane Eyre was “so perfect as a work of art,” she also criticized it “for not having a greater political purpose.” Despite disagreements and debates, they found a “space for themselves in the rapidly changing Victorian world.” When George Eliot heaped great praise upon Harriet Beecher Stowe (whose bestselling fame was greater than Eliot’s) for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Eliot received an unexpected letter from Stowe, which praised Eliot’s works, and a friendship was born. Until, that is, Eliot shockingly learned of Stowe’s published criticism of Byron for his incestuous relationship with his sister. It created a “frostiness” in their relationship, but it endured. Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield played a literary cat-and-mouse game with each other thanks to social differences and creative rivalry, but they remained friends.

Despite occasional fictional flourishes, these forgotten friendships, from illicit and scandalous to radical and inspiring, are revelations.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-88373-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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