A short account that paints a thorough and vivid portrait of one man’s American life.

MORE THAN ONE WAY HOME

A memoir chronicles a teacher’s youth in the Midwest and his struggles as an adult.

Debut author Baxter was born in 1948 in Kansas. His childhood was a happy one, thanks in no small part to his grandmother Younkin. Grandma was a retired English teacher with a fondness for literature, rocking chairs, and canasta. The book encompasses a number of vignettes from the author’s younger days, including the time in 1956 that his father caught him stealing hubcaps from car tires and how in 1965 he participated in a prank involving potassium from a chemistry class. He met his wife as a freshman at the University of Kansas. He eventually decided to follow in the footsteps of his grandmother and became a high school English teacher. The career path was not always easy. The author learned the hard way that his own love of books would not carry over to his students through “osmosis.” Recollections from the author’s adult years become more fraught. He writes of how, in retrospect, he always felt a separation from his mother, asserting: “I know I was loved, but it was from a distance.” He became overweight. At one of his children’s soccer games, a man in a NASCAR hat called him “fatty.” He explained to his therapist that he had the feeling of a kind of black hole overtaking him. And then there was the death of his first son, Jordan, in infancy. The author explains how “the memory of Jordan’s short life still fills my eyes with a juxtaposition of smiles and tears.” It is just such a juxtaposition that is at the heart of this slender volume (under 100 pages). The book consists of chapters that are rarely more than a few pages long. Readers get an inkling of some of Baxter’s worst and best times without too much lingering on either category. The outcome is certainly a breezy read, though some points could have used greater elaboration. For instance, the author mentions being a teacher in 1999 at the time of the Columbine High School shootings. Although the senselessness of the event disturbed him in obvious ways, it would have been informative to learn more. What was the discussion like in his workplace? What did he tell his students? Were his fellow teachers worried? Nevertheless, the memoir’s brevity is also a wonderful asset. No words are wasted on complicated family origin stories, minor triumphs that do not translate well on the page (for example, a promotion at work), or other miscellaneous events that would be of limited interest to readers. The audience is instead given choice segments of Baxter’s very personal experiences. The author points out that “humanity resides in minute details,” and it is just such specifics that fill the pages without overburdening them.  

A short account that paints a thorough and vivid portrait of one man’s American life.    

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-5001-6

Page Count: 86

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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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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