AN UNQUIET MIND

A MEMOIR OF MOODS AND MADNESS

Mood-disorder specialist Jamison (Psychiatry/Johns Hopkins) comes clean about her own mood disorder: manic-depression. Less bitter and defensive than Kate Millett (The Loony-Bin Trip, 1990) in writing of this illness, Jamison has one thing in common with her: the reluctance to take lithium, despite her knowledge as a professional that it would control her extremes of mood. Why the refusal? Because, Jamison says, the periods of mild mania, or hypomania, are ``absolutely intoxicating states that gave rise to great personal pleasure, an incomparable flow of thoughts, and a ceaseless energy.'' Jamison now takes her lithium dutifully, however, after being hobbled for years by cycles of extreme mania (sleepless nights, mental chaos, shopping sprees with bills totaling over $30,000) and suicidal depression. The illness began to manifest itself after the delicate balance of her family life was disrupted. In a highly fluid, readable memoir, Jamison wonderfully describes her childhood as an Air Force brat, capturing both the ``romance and discipline'' of military life. But in 1961, when she was 15, Jamison's father retired from the Air Force and the family moved to California. Her father, an imaginative, playful, charismatic man, began displaying signs of manic- depression, and a few years later, so did Jamison. Always passionate, curious, independent-minded, she was now subject to crippling mood switches as she began a successful academic career and passed through a failed marriage, love affairs, and a new marriage. Jamison is convincing on the seductiveness of hypomania. But the author of Touched with Fire (1993), which claimed a link between the artistic temperament and manic-depression, goes too far here in claiming a superiority of experience for herself: that she has lived more truly and intensely than folks whose moods are better calibrated (``I have run faster, thought faster, loved faster than most''). But overall, a well-written, vivid depiction of a devastating mental illness. (First printing of 75,000; Literary Guild alternate selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-44374-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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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 Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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