The book’s title is no hype; this is a startling account of an improbable huckster who made his living promoting a...

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. COUNEY

HOW A MYSTERIOUS EUROPEAN SHOWMAN SAVED THOUSANDS OF AMERICAN BABIES

A shocking and bizarre history of premature infant care in America.

Editor and journalist Raffel (The Secret Life of Objects, 2012, etc.) tells her story mostly as a biography of an implausible character, Martin Couney (1870-1950), whose claim to being a physician could not be verified. Premature infants are unable to maintain a normal temperature and may become too weak to eat. This was no secret, and by the end of the 19th century, inventive physicians, especially in France, had produced primitive containers designed to keep them warm. At the time, hospitals mostly served the poor, and doctors worked alone. Neither wanted these expensive new devices, so inventors promoted them in international exhibitions or as commercial entertainment. “At the Infant Incubator Charity at No. 26, Boulevard Poissonière,” writes the author, “Parisians paid fifteen centimes to see babies described by a reporter as ‘just big enough to put in your pocket.’ That same reporter stated that ‘like the bearded lady in the circus,’ the show was worth the price.” Raffel introduces her subject as a young promoter who secured London rights for Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee. After a profitable run, he sailed to the United States, where he operated preemie exhibits in fairgrounds and international exhibitions, with a permanent facility in Coney Island. In 1943, Couney’s final year of operation, Cornell Hospital opened New York’s first neonatal unit. Many readers will share Raffel’s admiration of Couney, who never charged patients and paid obsessive attention to diet and hygiene (unfortunately, rivals were not so attentive). Survivors loved him, and while some physicians denounced the commercialization of his project, others approved, and he is considered a founder of American neonatology.

The book’s title is no hype; this is a startling account of an improbable huckster who made his living promoting a lifesaving device.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17574-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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