Readers seeking a more universal account of illness will be better served by Christopher Hitchens’ nervy Mortality (2012),...

CANCERLANDIA!

A MEMOIR

A memoir of mixed maladies.

Most older people understand that illness is a constant that will swoop down and ruin a life before you know it. People of all ages know that it’s possible to do considerable harm to oneself all by oneself. Peruvian-American writer Alvarado Valdivia, having been knocked down by cancer at the age of just 30, understands the former. Having knocked himself out with beer on the night of his birthday before the diagnosis, one of many such episodes recounted here, he gets the latter, too. The author recounts the course of illness and the challenges attendant on it, and he treats, honestly but without much verve, the ups and downs of addiction and the costs it carries. Sometimes, Alvarado Valdivia can be very good, as when he writes of the mental numbness and bleakness following the diagnosis as manifested in a post-shower vision: “I felt a flash of panic when I looked at the fogged-up mirror, my smudgy reflection, and thought it reflected a dark figure walking toward me through the fog.” At times, wrestling with the realities of lymphoma, he gets on an edgy riff, as with one concerning the various secretions of the body and the weird effects of chemotherapy on them; regrettably, he throws that particular epiphany away with a too-easy likening of the scene to The Exorcist. Sometimes, he blends both illnesses with a throwaway casualness, as when he thinks to himself that it might not be a good idea to mix chemotherapy with a hangover. “Boy,” he determines, “was I fucking right.” There’s an unbridled quality to Alvarado Valdivia’s writing that sometimes comes off as exuberance but more often as indiscipline.

Readers seeking a more universal account of illness will be better served by Christopher Hitchens’ nervy Mortality (2012), Susan Sontag’s disquisitions on cancer, and son Philip Rieff’s Swimming in a Sea of Death (2008), and other more mature reflections.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8263-4189-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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