A vivid portrayal of wakefulness that will strike a chord of recognition in many readers.

INSOMNIA

A writer who can’t sleep muses on the human craving for oblivion.

In a capacious, lyrical meditation on her elusive quest for sleep, Benjamin (The Middlepause: On Life After Youth, 2017, etc.) reflects on the long nights she lies awake, watching enviously as her husband (affectionately dubbed Zzz) sleeps contentedly beside her. Her mind is alive with worry, anxiety (“anxiety is women’s work,” she observes), “looping” obsessions, and “gnawing thoughts.” Her pursuit of sleep makes her feel energized, “invigorated by the chase,” the opposite of the slow, quiet descent into unconsciousness that she desperately desires. Each morning, deprived of the restorative quality of sleep, she feels like a zombie. She has tried all manner of remedies: valerian root, sleeping pills, meditation, Nytol, and cognitive behavioral therapy, for which she found herself in a group of fellow insomniacs, meeting in a hospital conference room, sharing their sad stories of persistent wakefulness. Drugs afford her a few hours of sleep but not the kind of rest she needs; she wakes feeling heavy and dragged out. Cognitive behavioral therapy requires strict adherence to a regimen that feels counterproductive: She must keep a sleep diary and follow proper sleep hygiene practices. Most annoyingly, she is allowed only 5.6 hours of sleep per night, a number calculated by her sleep counselors. “It is a torment to take an insomniac and deprive them of sleep,” she complains. Benjamin finds consolation and insight from a wide range of literary sources: Greek and Egyptian mythology, fairy tales (“Sleeping Beauty” and the restive princess kept awake by a pea), Proust, Daniel DeFoe, Roberto Bolaño, Oliver Sacks (who awakened patients from the locked-in, sleeplike state), poets Charles Simic and Mary Oliver, philosophers David Hume and Gaston Bachelard, psychoanalysts Freud, Jung, and Bruno Bettelheim. Nabokov, a kindred spirit, “likened insomnia to a solar flare.”

A vivid portrayal of wakefulness that will strike a chord of recognition in many readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948226-05-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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