Though earnestly researched, the narrative feels disjointed, and the book is never quite as engrossing as the potential for...

PLAYING DEAD

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF DEATH FRAUD

An investigation of the world of death fraud.

The fantasy of faking one’s death or simply disappearing has sparked writers’ imaginations for centuries, from Shakespeare to Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn to the creators of TV shows such as Mad Men. Surprisingly, however, there hasn’t been much written on the actual nuts and bolts of planning such an event. Given the demands of our present era, Greenwood (Creative Writing/Columbia Univ.) believes the subject is more compelling now than ever. “Today disappearing seems virtually impossible,” she writes. “This, I think, is what accounts for our renewed fascination with it. We are burdened with our search histories and purchase histories and data stats that constitute our profile, to then be lumped and farmed out and sold to the highest bidder. Disappearing means disconnecting—unimaginable yet totally captivating. Precisely because it has become unfeasible, that deep urge to be anonymous, or even to be someone else, exists evermore powerfully within us.” In her research, the author consulted with experts such as Frank Ahearn, bestselling author of How to Disappear, and private investigator Steve Rambam. Greenwood interviewed individuals who have attempted to fake their deaths—e.g., John Darwin, who, after staging his own drowning, successfully disappeared for more than six years before becoming a local celebrity in England. The author also befriended a woman who has become the public face of the “Believers,” a committed group of fans who are certain that Michael Jackson is still alive. Ultimately, Greenwood traveled to the Philippines, a country with notoriously high incidents of death fraud, and endeavored to stage her own “pseudocide.” The author, perhaps inspired by writers such as Mary Roach or Susan Orlean, attempts a lighthearted approach to her material, interweaving personal experiences and insights, but the humor is a mixed bag.

Though earnestly researched, the narrative feels disjointed, and the book is never quite as engrossing as the potential for the intriguing content would suggest.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3933-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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 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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