While the outcome is known from the beginning, the author’s account of the experiments and research that preceded it and his...

EVERY SECOND COUNTS

THE RACE TO TRANSPLANT THE FIRST HUMAN HEART

When the South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant in 1967, his success dashed the hopes of three American cardiac surgeons.

Adrian Kantrowitz, Richard Lower and Norman Shumway were also on the brink of accomplishing that feat. McRae, a South African writer now living in London, interviewed Barnard’s brother Marius and other surviving members of Barnard’s family, the rival American surgeons and the doctors and nurses who worked with them, to create an often dramatic account of the competition. He recounts the years of research on animals, the development of techniques for transplanting other organs and the beginnings of open-heart surgery—all American advances that made it seem likely that an American would be the first to transplant a human heart. Finding the right donor and the right recipient is not a simple matter, with race complicating it in apartheid South Africa, and the controversy surrounding brain death creating problems in the U.S. As luck would have it, the necessary factors came together first for the upstart Barnard, who is depicted here as a surgical hustler, a womanizer, a morally frail man who sadly succumbed to the seductions of fame and was ruined by them. McRae captures the personalities of the surgeons, their ambitions, their drive, their collegiality (or lack thereof) and their pride and resentments, and he depicts graphic and tense operating room scenes, with doctors winning some battles and losing others. One, Lower, was even put on trial for murder before brain death was formalized in the U.S. as a medical and legal concept.

While the outcome is known from the beginning, the author’s account of the experiments and research that preceded it and his focus on the participants make for a dramatic read.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-15341-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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