It’s hard to find much solace within the relentless gloom—however insightfully explored—of one writer’s depression.

THIS CLOSE TO HAPPY

A RECKONING WITH DEPRESSION

A writer reflects on her unceasing struggle with clinical depression.

Although Merkin (The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags, 2014, etc.) is an undeniably talented writer, this memoir of her depression is as tough to read as it must have been to write. This is “the book about depression that I had been contacted to write by three successive publishing houses over the course of more than a decade,” and the author admits that “my daughter has been dealing with the reality of my depression for so much of her life that I’m convinced it half bores her.” Many readers will feel the same way, no matter how much they empathize with a writer who confesses, “most of all I am tired of myself and my battles.” In the first sentence, Merkin introduces “the allure of suicide,” an option that never goes away. She believes in the benefits of decades of therapy and medication, without which it’s doubtful she would have been able to write this book. The author writes that the “root cause” of her depression is “the nature of the family itself, as rotten at its core as Hamlet’s Denmark,” and she builds a convincing case, particularly in regard to her cold, neglectful parents—though she finds it impossible to extricate herself from the mother who has ruined her. Hospital stays (the last was eight years ago) have provided respite and occasionally companionship, but circumstances have been rarely much better upon her exit. Merkin has deeply ambivalent feelings about electroshock treatment, resisting a doctor’s suggestion of how much she would benefit and then regretting her refusal. Those who have read her incisive and well-crafted pieces as a staff writer for the New Yorker and a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Elle will wonder how she managed to get any work done when she was feeling so bad.

It’s hard to find much solace within the relentless gloom—however insightfully explored—of one writer’s depression.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-14036-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more