In sometimes moving prose, Shawn reveals the psychological damage of having and losing a twin.

TWIN

A MEMOIR

Deeply personal memoir that also examines the mystery of autism.

Composer and pianist Shawn (Music/Bennington Coll.; Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life, 2007, etc.) explores the impact on his life of having a twin sister, Mary, who was sent away the summer they turned nine and who has been institutionalized ever since. While his previous memoir focused on his phobias, this one reexamines his agoraphobia, speculates on his own autistic proclivities and lays bare family secrets. (The author’s father was the famously phobic editor of the New Yorker, William Shawn, and his brother is the actor and playwright Wallace Shawn.) As Shawn examines the literature on autism and reports on his findings, the narrative also serves as a capsule history of the scientific understanding of autism. When Mary was a child, Bruno Bettelheim’s “refrigerator mother” theory of autism was still respected; today, scientists recognize the complexity and range of the autistic spectrum. The most fascinating sections of the book, however, are the personal passages about Shawn’s parents’ lives, his teen years and his discovery of music. “Mary’s absence had been left largely undiscussed and papered over in our family life,” he writes. “Something essential in me had been papered over too, and music was my one means of access to it” In a striking image, the author compares himself and Mary to binary stars, “orbiting individually but subject to each other’s gravitational pull.” Although he frequently describes Mary’s appearance, actions and speech, it is not until the penultimate chapter—in which he details a day-long visit with her at the institution in Delaware where she has spent her adult years—that Mary comes to life for the reader. However, understanding how her mind works, what she perceives about her world and what she is feeling are tasks that even her twin brother cannot accomplish.

In sometimes moving prose, Shawn reveals the psychological damage of having and losing a twin.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02237-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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