A vital addition to the finite canon of Holocaust studies rooted in personal connection.



A masterful synthesis of family history and Holocaust investigation that blurs lines among perpetrators, justice, and national identity.

Kinstler, the former managing editor of the New Republic, captures a worrisome historical reality in our current moment of creeping authoritarianism. “Survivors have been telling the story of the Holocaust for the better part of a century,” she writes, “and still the judges ask for proof.” Her grim landscape is the “Holocaust by bullets” in the Baltic states following the Soviet Union’s brutal annexation. When the Nazis invaded, local auxiliaries in Latvia, the Arajs Kommando, outdid the Germans in cruelty, murdering Jews without remorse. Aviator Herberts Cukurs, one key member, ducked culpability after the war, but he was assassinated by Mossad in 1965 in Uruguay. (For more on Cukurs, see Stephan Talty’s The Good Assassin.) Kinstler was drawn to the story via a haunting connection: Her long-vanished grandfather, Boris, was also in the Kommando, but he may have been a double agent for the Russians (he “officially” committed suicide following the war). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to the release of reams of Holocaust documentation, including perpetrator and survivor testimonies, Latvian nationalists and revisionists sought to rehabilitate Cukurs in strange ways, including an operatic stage musical that “sought to absolve both him and his nation from any allegations of complicity.” This also led to renewed investigations into both his murder and his activities inside the Riga ghetto and subsequent massacres of Jews, all of which fueled Kinstler’s determined investigation. “I remained bewildered that, so many decades after the Second World War, questions of complicity, culpability, rehabilitation and restitution were still making their way through the courts,” she writes. The author writes with literary flair and ambition, highlighting the important stories of surviving principals and delving into such relevant topics as jurisprudence, post–Cold War Eastern Europe, and cultural efforts to come to terms with, or rationalize, still-obscured aspects of the Holocaust.

A vital addition to the finite canon of Holocaust studies rooted in personal connection.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5417-0259-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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 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.


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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