Speculative, to be sure, but also engaging, and a refreshingly novel twist on psychohistory.

THE HYPOMANIC EDGE

THE BIPOLAR DISORDER THAT MADE AMERICA THE MOST SUCCESSFUL NATION IN THE WORLD

Shhh. The fellow in the next cubicle, the one with all the big ideas who never sleeps, may be a loon.

Or, psychiatrist Gartner (Johns Hopkins Univ.) suggests, he may be a not-quite-manic visionary with the power—or at least the will—to change the world. Gartner works the edges of manic-depressive disorder to explore a lesser-known syndrome: hypomania, “a mild form of mania, often found in the relatives of manic depressives.” Hypomanics are full of ideas, energy, and sometimes insufferable self-confidence; they make decisions quickly, seldom look back, and generally view those who don’t get them as enemies or, at best, mere hindrances. They’re not mentally ill, but they’re close. So far, so good, but then Gartner wanders onto shaky historical ground. Christopher Columbus, he writes in a short chapter, “the archetype of the American entrepreneur,” may have been hypomanic. The evidence? Well, Columbus heard voices, and though he was a genius as a navigator and inspirer of action, he was a poor administrator and communicator who was eventually stripped of title and power—classic stuff. One need not be on the verge of mental illness to make grand claims, of course, and anyone who’s read Columbus’s memoirs knows that he knew how to work a crowd already inclined to be mystical. Neither does one need to be mad in order to make powerful enemies, as Alexander Hamilton, another of Gartner’s exemplars, did. And it may have been just plain old-fashioned monomania that made Andrew Carnegie incapable of understanding why workers were miffed that he was cutting their wages while building palatial libraries on their behalf. Gartner is on surer ground when he discusses more recent figures, such as Craig Venter, the pioneering geneticist who, by Gartner’s account, exhibits at least some traits that fit the hypomanic profile: a profile to which America, with its pioneer-spirit ideology, is well suited.

Speculative, to be sure, but also engaging, and a refreshingly novel twist on psychohistory.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-4344-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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