The high level of self-awareness is at times wearying, but good writing and solid medical reporting more than compensate.

BUYING DAD

ONE WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT SPERM DONOR

Describing with wry humor a lesbian’s search for a potential sperm donor, Aizley’s memoir makes a literate addition to the growing shelf of books altering the traditional definition of family.

Nearing 40, medical researcher and writer Aizley lives in Boston with Faith, a musician and composer. The author is ready to have a baby, but first the couple must decide on a donor: Faith wants someone they know, while Aizley prefers an anonymous source; both are Jewish and initially want a Jewish donor (“it’s a tribe thing”) who agrees that the child can make contact later in life. They begin to research the literature, Faith comes round to Aizley’s position on anonymity, and they finally locate an apparently suitable donor they nickname Baldie. His sperm arrives from California in a number of phials preserved in a tank of nitrogen, and Aizley begins insemination. After months of failure and increasing medical intervention and expenses, she fears she may be infertile, but before taking fertility-enhancing drugs, she checks to see whether Baldie has ever impregnated anyone. Learning that he hasn’t, the couple finds a new donor, half-Japanese and non-Jewish, and begins another, ultimately successful round of inseminations. Along the way, they learn that Aizley’s mother must undergo chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. As she relates in vivid detail her own medical trials—the ovulation watch and the actual inseminations, the doctors and personnel at fertility clinics—the author also movingly details her mother’s struggle with cancer. She describes frankly her jealousy of her also-pregnant younger sister, Faith’s occasionally ambivalent attitude, and fears that she can’t survive without her mother, whose cancer has spread. Relentlessly analytical, Aizley also explores the nature of her relationship with Faith, the meaning of motherhood, and of being gay.

The high level of self-awareness is at times wearying, but good writing and solid medical reporting more than compensate.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-55583-755-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Alyson

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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