A highly illuminating intellectual investigation.

WHY TIME FLIES

A MOSTLY SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION

An insightful meditation on the curious nature of time by New Yorker staff writer Burdick (Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, 2006).

As the author notes, his journey through this slippery subject began with his interest in the way time influences the functioning of our cells and cellular machinery rather than the “physical and mathematical aspects of time [that] continue to be debated by the great minds of cosmology.” He points to the contradiction between our search for precision in clocks and the reality that, by its very nature, our measurement of time is imprecise; it is a social construct rather than a measurable feature of reality as such. Not only does “no single clock, no single committee, no individual alone” regulate our unique, individual perception of time, but our individual internal clock is a collective activity of different regions of our brain. “Time is a social phenomenon,” writes Burdick, and we never directly perceive its passage. Because of this, we more easily develop an illusion of permanence that allows us to overlook long-term consequences of actions or inaction. Global warming is a case in point. Our failure to connect what the author calls “the world of temperature and the world of time” is particularly troubling—e.g., as it relates to the migration and breeding cycles of arctic birds. On a certain level, even our perception of an instant of time—the here and now—has become a social construct. The regulation of clock time was a local matter until the 19th century, when the development of commerce, industry, railroad, and telecommunications made a universal standard necessary. Burdick introduces another fascinating element into his meditation on our perception of the passage of time brought about by the advent of films. As he writes, “film and video have become the primary metaphor offered to explain, in popular terms, how the brain perceives time.”

A highly illuminating intellectual investigation.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4027-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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