A FORK IN THE ROAD

A STORY OF CHRONIC ILLNESS, FORTITUDE, FAITH AND OUR NATION

In this memoir, a blind, retired judge revisits his battle with chronic illness and the loss of his sight.

Brown opens his second memoir (Blind Justice, 2009) with the chilling line, “Going blind is like dying except you are still alive.” He then recounts his battle with Behcet’s Syndrome and becoming blind, spanning from his undergraduate days in the Triangle area of North Carolina, to his transition to retirement from the law profession where he was a district court judge, imparting advice from his life experiences along the way. After battling to stave off his impending blindness for more than a decade, Brown must physically and mentally adjust to life as a disabled person and deal with other life changes, or “train wrecks” as he calls them. He delivers some practical advice about handling loss and making good decisions about health care, but his focus could be better controlled and his audience narrowed down in order to avoid alienating some readers. While the book is filled with clichéd phrases, several stand-out lines, such as the opening one, bring emotion to Brown’s ordeal. The chapters alternate between encyclopedia-like recall of people and places associated with his life in Durham and advice for others facing a chronic disease. Photographs interspersed in the text and quotes beginning each chapter feel elementary, but Brown showcases his writing chops in the standout chapter “The Sightless End Game.” In it, he undergoes a series of cataract surgeries with the hope of being able to continue to see the face of his firstborn daughter and eventually memorize the face of his second daughter before he loses his sight completely, and this makes for heartwarming, emotionally charged scenes. The book concludes first with a chapter on Brown’s ideas for decreasing the national debt and then a final chapter on hope and love. While the book’s scope could have benefited from a tighter focus, the memoir has moments where there is much to learn from Brown’s wisdom. An ambitious memoir with a unique viewpoint regarding disabilities and life’s “train wrecks.”

 

Pub Date: March 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-1460937617

Page Count: 251

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012

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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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