An impressive meditation on a devastating affliction.

A better-than-average entry in the illness-memoir genre.

Levy (English, director of Writer’s Studio/Butler Univ.; The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves, 2005, etc.) suffers from migraine headaches. In this memoir/historical review/philosophical inquiry, he delivers an impressive amount of material that will certainly resonate with fellow sufferers. Migraines affect more than 30 million people in the United States, notes the author, but since they aren’t directly involved in deaths, doctors have never officially recognized the illness as a fatal disease. This is changing, however, as recent advances reveal distinct brain abnormalities and treatments that correct them. Since migraines are involved in one in five marriages, stress on the partner creates a second epidemic of depression, anxiety and divorce: “vacations are cancelled; Saturday’s disappear as the migraining spouse stays in bed and the non-migraining spouse drifts absently around the house, too solicitous to leave, too bored to stay and not resent it.” Though most of the book is a chronicle of his own struggles with the illness, Levy produces a remarkable list of famous victims—including Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud and Elvis Presley—quoting liberally from their accounts. The author produces a dynamic portrayal of the migraineurs’ world, an ominous alternative universe where the subtlest sight, sound, smell or innocent event can trigger an attack. Because Levy is a writing professor, readers will encounter a heavy dose of metaphor and long, poetic, stream-of-consciousness passages describing the nightmarish misery of an endless headache. Sufferers will empathize; most general readers will sympathize.

An impressive meditation on a devastating affliction.

Pub Date: May 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7250-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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