Insider’s view of brain damage clarifies the experience with honesty and humor.

THE MAN WHO FORGOT HOW TO READ

A MEMOIR

Straightforward account of how the author of the Benny Cooperman mystery series coped with a life-altering stroke.

Engel discovered one morning in 2001 that his daily newspaper, the Toronto Globe and Mail, appeared to have been written in Cyrillic or Korean. Recovering from his stroke at Mount Sinai Hospital, he was diagnosed with alexia sine agraphia, which meant that though he could still write, he could not read what he had written. This was a severe blow: Engel was, he writes, “a one-trick pony, and reading was my trick.” A brief account of his childhood and early years illustrates his addiction to reading and his introduction to writing. The memoir focuses, however, on his post-stroke life. For three months in a rehab center he worked with a specialist who helped him master the exhausting process of learning to decipher words letter by letter. Strategies that helped included writing letters in the air with his finger or tracing them on the roof of his mouth with his tongue. He began a “memory book” to help keep track of details that his scrambled brain could no longer retain; pages from this and from a journal he also kept are reproduced here. On his return home, Engel got reacquainted with his computer—the various screens looked vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t read the instructions—and began a new Cooperman mystery (Memory Book, 2006). He drew on his rehab experience to depict his private eye waking up in a hospital with alexia sine agraphia; friends helped by reading his written words back to him aloud. When the novel was finished, neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote an appreciative afterword for it, as he has for the present work.

Insider’s view of brain damage clarifies the experience with honesty and humor.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-38209-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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