FIRST PERSON PLURAL

MY LIFE AS A MULTIPLE

A singular first-person account of the much-debated condition now known as dissociative identity disorder (DID)—formerly termed multiple personality disorder—by a man who professes to have 24 separate personalities, or “alters.” West (a pseudonym) was a successful businessman when he began hearing the voices that led him to a psychologist’s office and eventually to the diagnosis of DID. Although he had no memory of childhood sexual abuse by his mother and grandmother, his alters did, and as his psychologist explains, their existence was his mind’s way of coping with those experiences. Introductory thumbnail sketches of his 24 alters help the reader to keep straight this extensive cast of characters. Most memorable are Clay, an eight-year-old whose untimely appearances put a damper on Wests’ lovemaking, and Switch, another eight-year-old, whose knife attacks on West send him repeatedly to the emergency room. Now a would-be novelist, West exercises his fledgling narrative skills here, not only relating his own strange tale briskly, but adopting an all-seeing eye for scenes where he was not present, e.g., his wife at a DID support meeting or with an admirer whose attentions threaten their marriage. While West’s story is primarily about his bizarre condition and how it changed his life (he sold his Massachusetts home and business and moved to California, earned a Ph.D. in psychology in order to better understand DID, spent time in psychiatric hospitals, and gradually came to accept as true the sexual abuse memories of his alters), it is also the story of a married couple dealing with one partner’s mental breakdown and of how they handled the subject with their young son. The volume is illustrated throughout with pages from West’s journal showing his alters’ childish scrawls and drawings. DID skeptics may view this as an ingenious bit of fantasy; for those who found Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve believable and engrossing, this account will be even more so.

Pub Date: March 3, 1999

ISBN: 0-7868-6390-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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