A moving examination of the variety of gender and erotic preferences, presented with varying degrees of persuasiveness as...



Psychoanalyst and story-writer Bloom (A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, 2000, etc.) aims to expand our notion of what is normal by showing up-close the lives of people widely considered to be abnormal: female-to-male transsexuals, heterosexual cross-dressers, and the intersexed.

Individuals who have altered female bodies to match their male self-concept, plastic surgeons who perform female-to-male sex change surgery, and psychiatric researchers into transsexual transition all share their thoughts with the author, and the surgeons also provide graphic images of their handiwork. Bloom takes the reader to a conference of transsexuals and cross-dressers at a southern motel, on a Carnival cruise hosting heterosexual cross-dressers and their wives, and to a Missouri convention of cross-dressers featuring a beauty pageant. She describes these men with a fetish for women’s clothes as “Presbyterian accountants from Cedar Rapids and Lutheran ministers from Omaha . . . decent, kind, intelligent, and willing to talk openly.” (Their wives seem resigned yet supportive.) Perhaps the saddest chapter of Bloom’s report on gender variability is the one on hermaphrodites, as intersexed individuals are often called. The assumption that a baby born with a minuscule, malformed penis or a greatly enlarged clitoris would be better off “normalized” has led physicians to perform reconstructive surgery on newborns, an approach that is now challenged by the Intersex Society of America, which urges doctors to proceed with caution and provides counsel and support to parents. The angry voice of someone subjected to childhood surgery, declared first a girl, then a boy, then a girl, makes for painful reading. Yet the intersexed are the least convincing cases in Bloom’s contention that nature is infinite in its variety and has not made mistakes with these people; she makes her strongest argument with the examples of heterosexual cross-dressers.

A moving examination of the variety of gender and erotic preferences, presented with varying degrees of persuasiveness as examples of nature’s vast spectrum of possibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-679-45652-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.


A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...


Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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