Certainly not literature, but a serviceable addition to the growing bookshelves on the Iraq War, especially useful to...

PARADISE GENERAL

RIDING THE SURGE AT A COMBAT HOSPITAL IN IRAQ

A well-intended but clumsily written view of life on the Iraq front from a physician’s point of view.

Hnida, a family doctor in Littleton, Colo., had his foundations shaken by three big events: the mass killings at Columbine High School, the rape of a daughter and the attacks of 9/11. As his memoir opens, “in a classic case of be careful of what you wish for,” he finds himself at age 48 in a ditch somewhere in Iraq being upbraided by a much younger fellow for his general cluelessness and lack of nimbleness: “You’re going to get us all killed unless you get the fuck down and eat some sand, sir.” Assigned to a combat surgery team, Hnida, who portrays himself throughout as something of a sad sack, acquaints readers with the many unpleasant ways of dying that the war has to offer, particularly the body-shredding explosive devices that seemed to lie around every corner. Somewhere along these treacherous roads, the author seems to have conceived the notion that the literary model to follow in relating his story was not Richard Selzer, the surgeon author of Mortal Lessons, but Richard Hooker by way of the TV series he inspired, M*A*S*H. As a result, the view is realistic, gritty and full of black humor, as when his much younger commanding officer offers this greeting: “You sure are one old fucker for this job.” All too often, however, Hnida surrenders to mawkishness and, worst of all, bad puns, seemingly in an effort to be the Patch Adams of Baghdad: “Hi, I’m Dr. Hnida, the former Sister Mary Elizabeth. That’s right, I used to be a nun, but I didn’t want to make a habit of it.”

Certainly not literature, but a serviceable addition to the growing bookshelves on the Iraq War, especially useful to would-be military physicians.

Pub Date: April 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9957-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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