Transcends the disability-memoir genre.

BORN ON A BLUE DAY

INSIDE THE EXTRAORDINARY MIND OF AN AUTISTIC SAVANT

A riveting account of living with autism.

Tammet, a 27-year-old Brit, is a highly functional autistic individual and something of a genius when it comes to numbers—he’s a terrific chess player and knows over 22,000 digits of pi. Here, he chronicles his often confusing childhood and his successful adult life. As a schoolboy, he felt isolated: Autistic children tend toward literalism, and they have a difficult time catching unstated nuances in speech. And so, when teachers or friends spoke to Tammet but failed to ask him a direct question, he didn’t realize he was supposed to respond. Although, as the author explains, autistic people tend not to catch on to emotional undercurrents, Tammet is quite attentive to the stresses and strains in his childhood home: His father had a nervous breakdown and there was never enough money (Tammet experienced his parents’ fights as a color—blue). Turning to adolescence and his early 20s, Tammet recalls coming out as gay, but he doesn’t allow sexuality to take over the book. Perhaps the most affecting chapters come near the end, as the author describes the quiet comfort he has achieved with his partner, Neil. In the predictable order of their shared home, Tammet feels “calm…and secure.” Tammet usefully sets his own story in a wider context, with period discussions of the state of research into autism and Asperger’s syndrome. At times, he is quite poetic, especially when he writes about numbers. In his mind, numbers have shape, color and texture. Describing his occasional nighttime visions of numbers, Tammet explains that “walking around my numerical landscapes…I never feel lost, because the prime number shapes act as signposts.”

Transcends the disability-memoir genre.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2007

ISBN: 1-4165-3507-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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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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