A complex and compelling memoir requiring a slow and patient read.

THE COMET'S TAIL

A MEMOIR OF NO MEMORY

In this small volume, Nawrocki (Four Blue Eggs, 2014) looks back at one year of her life—the six months she spent in a coma at age 19 and her half year in rehabilitation.

Early on, the author asks: “How can I write a memoir about events for which I have no memory?” Six months of her life were lost to a mysterious viral encephalitis that wracked her body and mind, and now she is determined to make sense of the time and the events that almost took her life. She is trying to understand the coma from the inside but has only outside information in her toolbox. She shares her journal entries from her first year at Sarah Lawrence, wondering whether these are the poetic, emotionally fraught musings of a typical freshman or the signs that some illness was already lurking, ready to take her down. She scours medical records, detailing the myriad tests and ambiguous conclusions. She knows but does not remember that she fell ill in the beginning of June. In August, the medical team at Yale New Haven Hospital wanted to do an open brain biopsy. Fortunately, her cousin Nancy, a doctor, stepped in: “Amy was a poet before she got sick, and when she gets better, I think she might need that piece of frontal lobe,” she told the team. Indeed, Nawrocki is a poet, and her writings, in her journals and in this memoir, are filled with vivid metaphors: “We all have wished to dream ourselves beyond the stratosphere, to rocket past the Oort cloud and hitch a ride on a revolving arm of the galaxy.” The basic, provocative question posed throughout this text is: what is memory? Is it the imprint on the brain of actual experiences, or the sum construct of experience, pieces learned from photographs, and the recollections of others? Nawrocki’s prose is often lyrical, but her musings are sometimes confounding, especially the passages written before her illness: “Palm strike to the face...I’m tired of this now that ebb tides the flow.” Still, this account is ultimately captivating, rewarding readers who finish the intricate book.

A complex and compelling memoir requiring a slow and patient read.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947003-61-3

Page Count: 68

Publisher: Little Bound Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

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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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