An eye-opening investigation of war’s casualties.

THE EVIL HOURS

A BIOGRAPHY OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

An exploration of the enduring human cost of war.

Journalist Morris (Storm on the Horizon: Khafji—The Battle that Changed the Course of the Gulf War, 2004), a former Marine and embedded reporter who suffers from PTSD, did not intend this book to be a therapeutic exercise, but he discovered that researching and writing about PTSD helped him to make sense of his own struggle with an affliction that “destroys the normal narrative of life.” Drawing on neuroscience, psychology, biochemistry, history, poetry and fiction, he offers an insightful—and never self-indulgent—overview of the “ghost that haunts history.” Among many traumatic stressors—rape, natural disasters, child abuse, for example—Morris focuses most intensely on war. The term PTSD emerged after Vietnam, but Morris discovered that soldiers’ trauma was recognized in Judeo-Christian times, in ancient Greece and in the Middle Ages, when religious authorities imposed “prayer, fasting, and abstinence from communion” on warriors who had killed. Civil War veterans were diagnosed with “nostalgia,” a term “used to indicate a number of conditions that today might be called clinical depression or simple panic.” For World War I veterans, the term was shell shock. Symptoms were common to all: nightmares, flashback memories and paranoia. The author summarizes current cognitive and pharmacological therapies: prolonged exposure therapy, or flooding, which reprises intense trauma; cognitive-behavioral therapy, with roots in psychotherapy; propranolol, to treat anxiety and panic; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac and Zoloft; eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing; and even yoga. In his experience, Morris has found “alcohol, taken in moderation, is one of the best PTSD drugs ever invented.” Morris deplores civilians’ lack of connection to soldiers’ brutal experiences. If the truth were known, he writes, “we wouldn’t continue to train, equip, and deploy warriors the way we do.” If soldiers were welcomed with empathy, “half of combat PTSD…would disappear overnight.”

An eye-opening investigation of war’s casualties.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-08661-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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