A bracing, unusual personal narrative that should appeal to aspiring physicians as well as to those considering the “big...

LAST NIGHT IN THE OR

A TRANSPLANT SURGEON'S ODYSSEY

A memoir of a high-achieving surgeon.

Retired transplant surgeon Shaw was a protégé of Thomas Starzl, “the father of liver transplantation,” when the specialty was considered radically reckless. Despite youthful doubts, the author decided that “working on the real frontiers of transplantation was a far more glorious pursuit than playing it safe.” Starzl’s harsh pedagogical manner (“Don’t hinder me, help me”) informs the tone of these clipped, anecdotal chapters, which provide a good sense of an elite surgeon’s development and attitude. As he writes of the team’s typical late-night helicopter arrival, “I suppose it was all so glamorous [but] mostly I worried about being disliked for our hubris.” Shaw trained in Starzl’s Pittsburgh-based program and then established his own transplant center in Nebraska, noting that demand for their innovations grew once Medicare approved the procedure. The author portrays the surgeon’s high-pressure lifestyle as grueling and surreal, depicting his first two marriages as casualties and discussing the invisible toll taken on his father, a revered general surgeon. Mainly, as the title suggests, Shaw focuses on the drama of the operating room, recalling both successful and failed transplants in terse, graphic terms: “I wanted to tell him that we pumped on her chest off and on for more than an hour…until finally I saw that everyone was standing back staring at me.” He suggests that if surgeons hold laypeople at a remove, they are their own harshest critics: “Yes, shit happens, but it’s still your fault. You’re the one who has to be better, smarter, more careful.” Shaw’s lean prose is lucid on technical aspects and moves briskly, more so than in some late-career memoirs, and he offers insights into medical professionals’ private perspectives as well as a sobering sense of human fragility and the scientific strides taken to counter it.

A bracing, unusual personal narrative that should appeal to aspiring physicians as well as to those considering the “big questions” around high-risk surgery.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-14-751533-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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