A graceful and loving meditation on the inevitability of decline, on the wonder of memory. (17 b&w photos)

REMIND ME WHO I AM, AGAIN

British journalist and novelist Grant (Sexing the Millennium, 1994) fashions a stylish, poignant memoir of her mother’s losing battle with an insidious form of dementia.

Grant divides her text into 27 unnumbered sections, beginning with a nightmarish shopping excursion with her mother Rose to buy a dress for a family wedding in 1996, and ending with a lyrical paean to memory (“the Wandering Jew of our physical selves”). A brief Afterword contains an update on her mother’s continuing decline. Rose suffers from MID (Multi-Infarct Dementia), a disease characterized by continual minor strokes that, in her case, have destroyed her short-term memory. Grant chronicles the struggles that she and her sister go through to care for their mother, first in her own apartment and then, finally, in a custodial home. Grant, a wonderful writer, has assembled many touching episodes, many remarkable observations. She remembers being embarrassed and disgusted by her father (who sold supplies to hairdressers); she regrets not paying attention in her youth to the family stories of her elders; she recalls with bemusement her father’s sudden confession of an encounter with a prostitute—and her mother’s placid acceptance (he had given her earrings to soften the news, and jewelry “easily outweighed a sexual infidelity”); she realizes the wisdom of a friend’s comment that “Your mother has become your daughter.” Even in the darkness of her disease, Rose continues to surprise Grant: she follows the O.J. Simpson trial, grieves at the death of Princess Di, and retains her tasteful fashion sense. Most affecting are Grant’s accounts of her wrenching decision to institutionalize her mother. When they finally leave her in a facility, she wonders: “What crime have we perpetrated, bringing her to this terrible place?” Less effective are summaries of discussions about dementia with an administrator of the facility.

A graceful and loving meditation on the inevitability of decline, on the wonder of memory. (17 b&w photos)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-86207-171-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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