I WANT TO THANK MY BRAIN FOR REMEMBERING ME

A MEMOIR

Prototypical ink-in-the-veins journalist Breslin (Damon Runyon, 1991; The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, 1969; etc.) now reports on a matter that concentrated his mind wonderfully, a matter for which his experience never prepared him: the opening of his skull to release an aneurysm. The burly columnist has fully recovered from a ``right pterinonal craniotomy with unruptured anterior communication artery aneurysm.'' A blood vessel in his brain was set to burst, quicker than a thought, at any time it chose. If not death, the event could have, for Breslin, triggered something worse. He could have lost all vocabulary and the ability to communicate. Happily, all is well inside the newsman's head. The evidence is this street-smart report from the purgatory of patienthood. On the armature of the life- threatening aneurysm, Breslin fleshes out a distinctive, funny memoir in the tones and syntax of the courtrooms and saloons of Brooklyn and Queens. It's a sage and cagey stream-of-consciousness flowing at extraordinary velocity. Here are family members as well as the likes of Lenny Bruce, Casey Stengel, and Marvin the Torch (``I build empty lots,'' said Marvin). In extremis, the remembrances of things past—the unhappy childhood, the stalking by Son of Sam, the bookmakers, gangsters, and ward heelers, the penury and proud achievements and the wonderment of life and love, no less—are covered in kaleidoscopic flashbacks. If it's occasionally disorderly, prideful, and cocky, it's always distinctive and often affecting. And the explicit depiction of the surgery, performed to the strains of Schubert's ``Trout Quintet,'' is simply harrowing. The Bard of the Boroughs is back with his accustomed wit in a chiaroscuro text that is more felicitous than the awkward title would hint.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-11031-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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