Knowingly and gloriously boastful, but not nearly as entertaining as Djerassi’s earlier memoir, The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and...

THIS MAN’S PILL

REFLECTIONS ON THE 50TH BIRTHDAY OF THE PILL

A memoir of the birth control pill’s monumental impact on its creator’s life, as well as a capsule history of the Pill’s development—and a response to those who blame it for various current social woes.

Djerassi (Chemistry/Stanford), whose laboratory at Syntex in Mexico City synthesized the steroid that later became the first oral contraceptive, clarifies the contributions of numerous other scientists to the birth of the Pill, calling himself its mother, Massachusetts-based biologist Gregory Pincus its father, and Harvard endocrinologist John Rock its metaphorical obstetrician. Having settled questions about the Pill’s ancestry, the author turns to the issue of its impact. He looks at the Pill’s acceptance around the world and raises some interesting what-if-it-hadn’t-been-invented questions, but the heart of the matter is how the oral contraceptive changed Djerassi’s own life. It brought him out of the chemistry lab and turned him into a novelist, poet, playwright, and innovative educator; in addition, Syntex stock options made him a wealthy man, enabling him to become an art collector and patron of the arts. Writing two public policy articles on the Pill convinced him that politics, not science, would shape birth control’s future, and he consequently developed courses bridging science and the humanities at Stanford. What he refers to as “this softening of my scientific persona” led Djerassi to seek a wider public for his views, and he describes his subsequent literary career in loving detail, illustrating his account with examples from his work. An autobiographical poem serves as the book’s abstract (scientific papers have one, so why not this?), and the text is laden with excerpts from his poems, short stories, “science-in-fiction” novels (NO, 1998, etc.) and “science-in-theater” dramas. Djerassi clearly takes great pride in his accomplishments, not least the founding of a thriving artists’ colony near Palo Alto.

Knowingly and gloriously boastful, but not nearly as entertaining as Djerassi’s earlier memoir, The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas’ Horse (1992).

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-850872-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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