Funny yet moving, a midlife crisis tale with all the elements of a TV movie of the week.

AMBULANCE GIRL

HOW I SAVED MYSELF BY BECOMING AN EMT

A witty, self-deprecating account of how becoming a volunteer emergency medical technician transformed a reclusive, depressed hypochondriac into a vibrant whole woman.

Co-author with husband Michael of numerous books on food and pop culture (Dog Eat Dog, 1997, etc.), a columnist for Gourmet magazine, and a contributor to NPR’s The Splendid Table, Stern at age 52 appeared to be a woman of accomplishment. She describes herself, though, as clinically depressed, claustrophobic, and floored by panic attacks. Her decision to become an EMT was, she says, a spur-of-the-moment act, taken after a couple of months of psychotherapy and treatment with antidepressants. It also seems driven by the desire of this urbane, well-traveled outsider to become an accepted part of her largely blue-collar New England community. During months of thrice-a-week classes, mostly with fit young firemen and police trainees, overweight, overage, and overeducated Stern struggled hard to fit in, at times losing her dignity, but not her sense of humor. Once certified as an EMT, she faces some real-life tests. The claustrophobic writer dreads riding in the back of the ambulance, but of course she must, and with a couple of drunken, bleeding motorcyclists to care for she doesn’t have time to be afraid. Her fear of dead people is challenged when she is confronted with her first corpse: fat, naked, blue, and covered with Cheerios. And on it goes, through fires, accidents, and domestic crises, until the day Stern sees someone she knows become a virtual vegetable after an EMT rescue. Questioning the value of heroic saves, she begins again to sink into depression, coming out of her funk only after the events of 9/11 make her see rescue workers as a noble brotherhood. In the end, she achieves her goal and closes her account of self-transformation with the joyous announcement: “I am a part of something at last.”

Funny yet moving, a midlife crisis tale with all the elements of a TV movie of the week.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-4832-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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