A complex, potentially alienating writing style clouds this unique war memoir.

Rockin' in the Round-Eye Lounge

Deaton’s (The Death of Maria Chavarria, 2012) Vietnam memoir offers medical narratives amid the complexities of war.

In 1967, Deaton was at the end of his rope. He had a career and a family, but also an overpowering addiction to barbiturates. In light of his increasingly erratic impulses and worried about the destruction his downward spiral could wreak on the ones he loved, Deaton volunteered for the Vietnam War. The war would either cure or kill him, but he was so focused on the end results that he didn’t fully comprehend what was ahead. Deaton’s thoughts and perceptions were scattered by both pills and the action of the world around him, and while the narration supports this feeling, the style can be awkward for readers. Meaning gets muddled in shifts to the present tense and in overly verbose descriptions: “The building itself was smug. It was as smug as a jukebox on a Saturday night, as smug as an organ-grinder with twin monkeys, as smug as the villain in every plot of gothic dimensions.” Once Deaton arrives in Vietnam, the style seems more apt. Quitting his drug habit wasn’t the immediate, cold turkey affair he’d imagined, and his moods and heavy hangovers were just as much a problem as they were at home. He was still constantly tempted, both by substances and the women around him, despite his marriage vows. At the same time, he butted heads with other doctors and soldiers, his authority issues with matters of medical treatment creating conflict with the military rank and file. While many of his early cases make for mundane reading, the realities of war sweep in, threatening Deaton’s life more than once. Danger turns real, interpersonal conflict becomes collegial respect, and his addiction seems certain to be discovered. As patients’ stories fill up the sometimes-gruesome narrative, it’s seldom clear how Deaton’s tour of duty will turn out. Change, like war, was an inevitability.

A complex, potentially alienating writing style clouds this unique war memoir.

Pub Date: April 24, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 417

Publisher: Kindle Direct Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

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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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