Whether you’re a parent or simply thinking about life choices, there’s both melancholy and wisdom to be found here.

A BETTER MAN

A (MOSTLY SERIOUS) LETTER TO MY SON

A multitalented actor and comedian digs deep to write a letter to his son about becoming a man.

Black, who got his start with the cult classic The State, is a performer with many facets. Onstage, he displays a dryly sarcastic sense of humor, and at the same time, he has been able to fully engage his goofy side in projects like Wet Hot American Summer. In his latest work of autobiography, following You’re Not Doing It Right, Black drops the act in order to deliver heartfelt lessons for his college-bound son. Opening with the Sandy Hook mass shooting, which occurred blocks from his son’s school, the author addresses his fears, hopes, and missteps in raising his children. The shooting, he writes, “felt like a tornado touching down, mindless and cruel. But also predictable. Infuriatingly predictable….In America…mass shootings are as common as sunsets.” Whether examining violence, sex, relationships, or compassion, Black lays out his thoughts and feelings with few defenses up and a comic lightness that doesn’t belie the book’s rather heavy truths. Though not as analytical as Peggy Ornstein’s incisive analyses of the sex lives of young people (although she shows up here), the narrative offers thoughtful ruminations on masculinity in the modern age. It’s also refreshing to read a memoir that doesn’t preach its messages from an author who honestly admits his imperfections. “The ideas I’m giving to you now are the best I can do now,” Black writes. “I hope you’ll tell me where you think I’ve fallen short. I hope you’ll remind me to stay open and available and receptive to new ideas. Maybe the last job of parenting is surrendering the lead and letting our kids guide us forward. We’re going to need the help.”

Whether you’re a parent or simply thinking about life choices, there’s both melancholy and wisdom to be found here.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-911-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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