As Godin wonderfully shows, we’ve come a long way in our quest to understand what blindness means.

THERE PLANT EYES

A PERSONAL AND CULTURAL HISTORY OF BLINDNESS

How blindness has shaped global culture across centuries.

Playwright and columnist Godin approaches her subject from a unique perspective. Now blind, she gradually lost her sight from retinal dystrophy, a frightening process she poignantly recounts throughout the book. Her ambitious goal is to trace the “complexities of metaphorical and literal blindness and sight.” As she writes, “what I’m wrestling with…is the concept of blindness that our ocularcentric culture extols on the one hand and dismisses on the other.” The idea that poetic gifts are compensation for blindness began with Homer, who may or may not have been blind. Godin uncovers a rich literary history of blindness, including such signposts as the blind bard Demodocus, biblical Scripture, King Lear, Jorge Luis Borges, Mark Danielewski’s “haunting masterpiece,” House of Leaves, and Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under. John Milton, whose Paradise Lost provides the book’s title, went blind in his 40s, composing his later works in his head until an amanuensis wrote them down. Godin discusses Milton’s blindness and the “long tradition in Milton scholarship that falls victim to…ocularcentrism.” The author also introduces us to Valentin Haüy, who opened Paris’ groundbreaking Royal Institute for Blind Youth in 1785 and developed a way of reading via embossed letters on paper. A young Louis Braille attended the school and would go on to “invent a writing system that would eventually revolutionize blind education.” After World War II, a veteran-rehabilitation specialist “pioneered the technique” for using a long, sweeping white cane. After a sprightly look at Helen Keller in vaudeville and Godin’s play about it, she moves on to the topic of blindness and sex and the difficulties that face blind authors, artists, and musicians, including Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. The author wraps up her erudite, capacious book with discussions of blind parents and superheroes, the portrayal of the blind in the media, and blind pride.

As Godin wonderfully shows, we’ve come a long way in our quest to understand what blindness means.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4871-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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