A privileged perspective on the man and his art.


The renowned poet’s life revealed in letters.

A star of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes (1902-1967) published poetry, fiction, humor, books for young people, biographies and autobiographies, anthologies, and assorted works of history and translation. He also wrote thousands of letters, from which Rampersad (Humanities, Emeritus/Stanford Univ.; Ralph Ellison, 2007, etc.) and Roessel (Greek/Stockton Coll. of New Jersey; co-editor: Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes, 2013, etc.) have made a discerning selection—including several disarmingly candid drafts—to offer a vivid portrait of a man sometimes cowed by self-doubt and vulnerability, sometimes given to outbursts of bravura, always eager for adventure and always short of money. In the 1930s, his youthful socialist sympathies transformed into passionate radicalism. He cherished friendships, as letters to Arna Bontemps, Carl Van Vechten and Countee Cullen attest, and he was quick to encourage other writers, including Ralph Ellison and Alice Walker. As a young writer himself, he could be self-deprecating: He felt timid about meeting editor and professor Alain Locke, he told Cullen, “because I know he’d find me terribly stupid.” When he was 25, Hughes was taken up by Charlotte Osgood Mason, an elderly white philanthropist who offered him a monthly stipend to support his writing and insisted on being called “Godmother.” Hughes loved Mrs. Mason “as a son loves his mother,” Rampersad writes. When Mason flared up angrily at what she saw as indolence, Hughes felt desolate: “I am humbly deeply sorry,” he wrote, but he confessed, “I cannot write at all on any sort of pre-arranged schedule.” An intrepid traveler, Hughes saw the world; championed by Van Vechten and his publisher Blanche Knopf, he socialized with celebrity artists and writers. Yet all the while, he took advice offered by Vachel Lindsay to be “wary of lionizers.”

A privileged perspective on the man and his art.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-375-41379-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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 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...


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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