A DESPERATE PASSION

AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A maverick's life, told with grace and good humor. Caldicott (Missile Envy, 1984), famed as an antinuclear activist and as a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility but less well known as an early researcher of cystic fibrosis, has much to tell. Born Helen Broinowski (``Nobody with Polish and Irish ancestry—as I have—has any right to expect a quiet, easy life'') into a family of Australian social progressives, she was one of the first female medical doctors to practice in her native country. She was also, early on, an outspoken critic and pacifist: ``I have taken on the establishment in society,'' she writes. ``I tend to have independent views which are often not popular initially, and I am impelled to speak the truth with little regard for the prevailing norms of society.'' That much is evident in her narrative of her early days as an activist, when she gave talks to Australian ladies' clubs and delivered the feminist gospel according to Germaine Greer—along with frank reminders that venereal disease is a possible outcome of sexual intimacy. Such remarks shocked her staid listeners. In later years, she has crusaded more widely for women's causes, for socialized medicine, for gun control (``the United States . . . is full of strange people carrying guns''), and, of course, for disarmament and the abolition of nuclear testing. One of the highlights of her book is an aside on how she bluffed Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev, playing each off against the other, into endorsing her call for arms talks. Closely concerned with the big issues of our time, Caldicott does not often share the quotidian details of her own life, but when she does, it is with emotional power, as when she writes affectingly of the dissolution of her long marriage, and of her love for the natural world. A treat for Caldicott's many admirers. (16 pages photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-03947-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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