Despite its literary shortcomings, this volume could add to the ongoing discussion about the treatment of the mentally ill...

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The Unjust "Justice"

A debut book examines the case of a young man imprisoned for a crime committed while in the grip of mental illness.

Henry Carmel, the son of an Aruban immigrant, is described as a hardworking, “intelligent man with a good heart.” In his late teens, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1996, at the age of 20, Henry was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals after killing with an ax a boarder’s large dog that Henry feared was about to attack him.  In a later, separate incident, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after supposedly threatening a former friend with a machete. In 1997, Henry was sentenced to state prison; he “should have been taken to a mental health treatment facility or a state hospital to stay there for the time of the sentence,” the author writes. Castle (a pseudonym) meticulously chronicles Henry’s 14-year legal ordeal solely from the perspective of the Carmel family (also a pseudonym). The author’s disclaimer reports that this book is based on a true story but that “for protection, the names of characters and the time and locale of events have all been changed.” The writer seems to be someone intimately involved in the case (the father, perhaps?). He clearly has a palpable grudge against the deputy district attorney who he claims was hellbent on sending Henry to prison and keeping him there, charging that she behaved despicably. In one re-created telephone conversation she prevails upon a doctor who is to perform an autopsy on the dog to be “as harsh as possible in your report. Have no mercy.” Such stilted scenes ring false, and the author concedes they are fictitious and “intended to strongly convey the message of lack of ethics.” About the “obsessed” members of her office, he writes, “They were ignorant about mental illnesses...and none of them bothered to learn something about the illness so that they could handle relevant legal cases more fairly.” Henry’s legal nightmare is heartbreaking, but he would have been better served by a more objective and skilled author.

Despite its literary shortcomings, this volume could add to the ongoing discussion about the treatment of the mentally ill by the justice system.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4620-6457-1

Page Count: 412

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2016

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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 book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF DEPRESSION

The creator and host of the titular podcast recounts his lifelong struggles with depression.

With the increasing success of his podcast, Moe, a longtime radio personality and author whose books include The Deleted E-Mails of Hillary Clinton: A Parody (2015), was encouraged to open up further about his own battles with depression and delve deeper into characteristics of the disease itself. Moe writes about how he has struggled with depression throughout his life, and he recounts similar experiences from the various people he has interviewed in the past, many of whom are high-profile entertainers and writers—e.g. Dick Cavett and Andy Richter, novelist John Green. The narrative unfolds in a fairly linear fashion, and the author relates his family’s long history with depression and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic, and one of his brothers was a drug addict. Moe tracks how he came to recognize his own signs of depression while in middle school, as he experienced the travails of OCD and social anxiety. These early chapters alternate with brief thematic “According to THWoD” sections that expand on his experiences, providing relevant anecdotal stories from some of his podcast guests. In this early section of the book, the author sometimes rambles. Though his experiences as an adolescent are accessible, he provides too many long examples, overstating his message, and some of the humor feels forced. What may sound naturally breezy in his podcast interviews doesn’t always strike the same note on the written page. The narrative gains considerable momentum when Moe shifts into his adult years and the challenges of balancing family and career while also confronting the devastating loss of his brother from suicide. As he grieved, he writes, his depression caused him to experience “a salad of regret, anger, confusion, and horror.” Here, the author focuses more attention on the origins and evolution of his series, stories that prove compelling as well.

The book would have benefited from a tighter structure, but it’s inspiring and relatable for readers with depression.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20928-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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