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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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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