A useful but flawed personal and professional examination of addiction and how it has impacted humans and baffled experts.

THE URGE

OUR HISTORY OF ADDICTION

A blend of memoir, critique, and history of the impact of addiction and the struggle to treat it.

Despite the subtitle, this is more than standard history. Fisher, an addiction physician and professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia, presents an account of his own struggles with addiction; his experience as a psychiatrist treating people with intractable addiction issues; a history of humanity’s struggles with addictive substances; and a scathing critique of government policy toward drugs and drug abuse. Fisher has synthesized an enormous amount of material and is on firm ground when he writes on what he knows. Steeped in the history of medicine, his accounts of how doctors and self-help pioneers have dealt with addiction are vivid and well informed, and his insights into Alcoholics Anonymous and other therapeutic programs are buttressed by vast experience. He shows tremendous empathy for addicts and their challenges, and his personal story, of an addiction that almost derailed his medical career, is powerful and dramatic. However, his critiques of government policy toward addiction are largely one-sided. His chief targets are laws and programs that demand abstinence to ensure recovery, but Fisher skates over the other side: why those programs are popular and why many authorities believe they work. He also filters issues through the lenses of race and class, whether germane or not. For example, writing about a crucial Supreme Court decision on the legality of a Black man's drug arrest, he labels judges of the time “old white men,” suggesting they were racist and out of touch. That may have been true, but their 1962 decision decisively favored more rights for the accused. After robust and sustained criticism of most current approaches to treating addiction, readers will hope for more information about what does work, but recommendations for the “pragmatic and pluralistic perspective” remain general. Readers familiar with the issues will engage; those seeking more insight into what causes this “baffling” human burden—and how they can manage it in their own lives—should look beyond this book.

A useful but flawed personal and professional examination of addiction and how it has impacted humans and baffled experts.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-56144-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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