A frankly written debut memoir that captures all the fright of a medical calamity and the humor and grace necessary to...

THE BRAND NEW CATASTROPHE

A devastating diagnosis throws a writer and his family into a tailspin.

The crushing catastrophe at the core of Scalise’s memoir is a burst pituitary tumor that occurred in 2002, when the author was just 24. The author enlivens his anecdote-driven chronicle with dispatches involving his mother, a worrisome matriarch who smokes and drinks despite a congenital heart ailment; his father, who emails pornography to him in a postoperative attempt to jump-start depleted testosterone levels; and his understanding, compassionate longtime girlfriend, Loren. Scalise’s tumor, seated behind his eyes, released an increased amount of pituitary hormones into his bloodstream, which can lead to a rare condition called acromegaly, causing facial and body gigantism. In a chapter titled “Q&A,” the author discusses the protocol used by physicians to assess him for symptoms, intimately detailing the numerous adverse side effects he subsequently endured throughout the months following his neurosurgery. Excessive sweating, nerve damage, sleep deprivation—all pointed to a positive diagnosis and more agony for Scalise and his family. The author’s quirky sense of humor and crisp, hopeful worldview transform this memoir from dreary to fascinating and engaging even after the grueling particulars of his Gamma Knife cranial radiation procedures are laid bare. Adding substance to the story is the medical history of how acromegaly has altered the appearances of notable public figures like Andre the Giant, Tony Robbins, and Olympic skater Scott Hamilton. Combined with his thoughtful meditations on the nature of life’s randomly occurring catastrophes, readers are further drawn into the author’s story. There is no silver lining here, but Scalise’s narrative verve and brisk prose create a winning chronicle of illness, recovery, and “courageous defiance.”

A frankly written debut memoir that captures all the fright of a medical calamity and the humor and grace necessary to survive it.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941411-33-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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