A short memoir that moves readers on multiple levels.

FATHER AND SON

A LIFETIME

A provocative memoir about coming to terms with not only the life and death of the author’s father, but also with writing about it as honestly as possible.

A prizewinning novelist in his native Spain, Torrente (The End of Love, 2013, etc.) has drawn from his own life in his fiction, and he admits that he used his writing as a “weapon” against the father who left his mother for another woman and whose contact with his son was infrequent for decades. “Triangulation, concealment, exaggeration, cross-contamination….The fact is that I used my father,” he writes. “The substance of the book grew out of our deepest misunderstandings.” However, he continues, “[f]iction, even when it’s inspired by reality, obeys its own rules. It alters reality by pursuing different ends than those of fidelity to the truth.” This, then, is a book about discovery, of new rules, of a different, more authentic voice than the one in the fiction. It’s also a book about how the relationship between father and son came full circle, with the former’s failing health and the latter assuming the role of primary caretaker. And it’s a book about the creative process—the father was a painter who experienced shifts in critical reception as his son’s career was on the rise—about blood ties and competition, and inevitably about the contemplation of one’s own mortality. “The dead leave sadness and not a few questions behind them,” writes Torrente. “They oblige us to contemplate our own death, and, at the same time, the futility of life, but in the face of the inarguable reality that everything comes to an end, that there’s no redemption, that what wasn’t done can no longer be done, our understanding fails us.” Unsentimental and unflinching, the book is also about a son’s love for his father and about the time lost to tension and estrangement that he wishes he had back.

A short memoir that moves readers on multiple levels.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-27771-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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