Of interest to Twain scholars and die-hard fans but not to a general audience.

A FAMILY SKETCH AND OTHER PRIVATE WRITINGS

A collection of writings by Twain, his wife and his eldest daughter that depict the day-to-day life of one of America’s most beloved writers and his family.

The six essays that comprise this volume form a unique biography of the Clemens clan during the time of its greatest thriving. The most complete piece, “A Family Sketch,” begins the book. Twain wrote it after the death of his eldest daughter, Susy, in 1896 but never published it. The author introduces readers to his three daughters and several family servants, including a resourceful black butler named George and an Irish wet nurse who “whooped like a Pawnee…swore like a demon…and drank great quantities of strong liquors.” The essay that follows, “A True Story,” was published in fictionalized form in the Atlantic Monthly in 1874. Like “Sketch,” it focuses on portraiture—in this case, of a long-suffering but ever cheerful black servant named Aunt Rachel. The two following pieces are more anecdotal in nature and offer a series of informal observations on the often silly and outrageous but sometimes remarkably wise words and actions of Twain's daughters. His wife, Livy, adds her voice to the mix in the fifth essay. Comprised of a series of journal entries she kept while the family summered at their Elmira, New York, home in 1884, the piece records the quotidian events of her family. Rounding out the collection is the essay, “Mark Twain” by Susy Clemens. Incomplete and deliberately unedited for spelling errors, Susy speaks with disarming honesty about her famous father and his flaws, which included a “peculiar gait” and teeth that were not “extraordinary.” These essays are refreshing for their at times draftlike quality. At the same time, that they are so “private and unpolished” limits their appeal.

Of interest to Twain scholars and die-hard fans but not to a general audience.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-520-28073-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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 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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